Arguments on behalf of the absconding 19 fugitives accused in August 21 grenade attack were presented to Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 in Dhaka on January 2 by state-appointed defence lawyers. Arguments were also presented to the court on behalf of five absconding accused on Wednesday (January 3).
However, no one, not even their lawyers know where the 19 accused fugitives are. Some of their lawyers have admitted that their clients are hiding to escape arrest from law enforcers.
There are allegations that the law enforcers are not giving enough effort to bring the fugitives back to Bangladesh. They are often in the dark about the whereabouts of these fugitives.
According to court sources, initially 52 people were accused in the case. The names of war crimes accused Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed , leader of terrorist group Harkatul Jihad Mufti Abdul Hannan and his associate Sharif Shahedul Bipul accused in former British High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury grenade attack case were dropped from the list.
The names of four of the 19 fugitives are on Interpol's Red Notices list. Among them, BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia's former political secretary Harris Chowdhury, former BNP lawmaker Kazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad , Harkatul Jihad leader Maulana Mohammad Tajuddin Mia and Ratul Babu are in the list.
The list of accused now stands at 49, out of which 22 are in jail and 19 are absconding.
Khaleda Zia's elder son Tarek Rahman, who is now living in London was also on the Interpol's wanted list for a while. Later, his name was removed from the list.
When asked about the fugitives, Criminal Investigation Department (CID)special investigation officer Abdul Kahar Akand who is overseeing investigation in the August 21 grenade attack told the Bangla Tribune that efforts are underway to arrest the fugitives.
"We are working to find location of the fugitives. Also, the government is aware of current locations of 19 fugitives,” he said.
The other accused are- Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Saiful Islam Joardar, Hanif Paribahan's owner Mohammad Hanif, former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Khan Saeed Hasan, former District Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Obaidur Rahman Khan, Harkatul Jihad leader Maulana Mohibul Mutakkin, Anisul Mursalin alias Mursalin, Mohammad Khalil, Jahangir Alam Badar, Mohammed Iqbal, Maulana Abu Bakar alias Hafez Lokman Howlader, Mufti Abdul Hai, Maulana Liton alias Delwar Hossain alias Jobair and Mufti Shafiqur Rahman.
Law enforcers are in the dark about the other fugitives. However, it has been learned from law enforcement sources that Mohammed Hanif of Hanif Paribahan and Ratul Babu are in India, Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Saiful Islam Joardar is in Canada, militant leader Shafiqur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hai, Maulana Abu Bakr, Iqbal, Khalilur Rahman, Jahangir Alam alias Badar, Maulana Liton alias Jobayer alias Delwar, former deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (east) Obaidur Rahman and deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (south) Khan Sayed Hasan are staying in Pakistan.
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia's elder son and senior vice chairman of the BNP Tarique Rahman is currently in London. During the rule of military-backed caretaker government in 2008, he went to London after being released on parole. The government of Bangladesh sent a letter to the UK government about sending Tarique back to Bangladesh but no progress has been made in this regard.
Mawlana Tajuddin Mia
Maulana Tajuddin fled the country after the August 21 grenade attack in 2004. According to law enforcement agencies, he is living in South Africa. In November 2016, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam discussed the issue of bringing fugitive Tajuddin to Bangladesh for trial with South Africa's government.
Kazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaykobad
According to information from law enforcement agencies, former BNP MP Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad is living in the UAE as a fugitive. He was the state Minister for religion during Ershad's tenure and later joined the BNP.
ATM Amin Ahmed
Former DGFI Director Major General (retd) ATM Amin Ahmad was an influential officer during the army-backed caretaker government. After Awami League came to power in 2009, he went to the US. According to government sources, he is still living there.
Anisul Mursalin and Mohibul Muttakin
Detectives have said that Harkatul Jihad militants Anisul Mursalin and Mohibul Muttakin are being held in Tihar jail in India.
After the August 21 2004 grenade attack, a case was filed by Sub-Inspector of Motijheel Police Station Sharif Faruque Ahmed under the sections-- 120 / B, 324, 326, 307, 302, 2011, 118, 119, 212, 330, 218, 109 and 34-- of the Penal Code. Later in June 9, 2008 senior ASP of CID Fazlul Kabir filed two charge sheets in the CMM Court under the Murder and Explosives Act, naming Harkatul Jihad leader Mufti Hannan and 22 others as suspects in the August 21 grenade attack. In that same year, the proceedings of the case were made at Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 and trial for both cases began.
After recording testimonies from 61 witnesses, the prosecution requested permission for further investigation and permission was granted on June 25, 2009. Later, Abdul Kahar Akand filed a supplementary charge sheet on July 2, 2011, accusing 30 people including BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman, Harris Chowdhury, Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad and Abdus Salam Pintu in the August 21 grenade attack.
Shahed Nur Uddin is acting as a judge in the case.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune