The trial related to the Major General Abul Manzoor murder case, filed 17 years ago, is being delayed as the prosecution has delayed in presenting its arguments.
Today is the fifth day for hearing arguments in the trial. New Additional District and Sessions’ Judge Badrul Alam Bhuiyan is supposed to hear the arguments at a special court on Nazimuddin Road.
Former president HM Ershad, whose Jatiya Party is a key ally of the ruling Awami League, is one of the accused in the Manzoor murder case.
The former dictator has on several occasions threatened to leave the Awami League-led grand alliance and participate in the upcoming general elections “independently.” He also expressed solidarity with Hefazat-e-Islam, an Islamist organisation, which recently laid siege to Dhaka city demanding that the government fulfil its 13-point demand.
Court sources told the Dhaka Tribune that the date for hearing arguments had been changed four times as the prosecution submitted time petitions on different grounds.
On October 2 last year, Ershad defended himself in court, pleading not guilty.
General Manzoor was killed in 1981 after the assassination of BNP founder and military leader Ziaur Rahman; the murder case was filed in 1995; subsequently, the charge sheet was submitted in court the same year.
In his defence, Ershad told the court that he had stepped down from power on December 6, 1990, in agreement with the “so-called” framework outlined by the then opposition.
In a written statement submitted to the court, he said his abdication was based upon the conditions that each political party would enjoy equal opportunity and that they would take no steps to seek political vengeance.
“Regrettably, I was implicated in false cases one after another in violation of the pre-election agreements due to vendettas,” the former dictator said.
“The goal was to harm my dignity. It was intended for my political destruction and social humiliation. This case is nothing but a sequel to that design.”
Ershad said the then government announced a Tk500, 000 reward for Manzoor’s capture – dead or alive, but he denied his involvement with his murder.
Narrating the events that led to the death of Manzoor, Ershad said: “Manzoor was being brought to Chittagong cantonment after his capture. Some enraged people tried to snatch him on the way and this sparked shooting between them and the guards. At one stage of the encounter, Manzoor was hit by bullets and died on his way to hospital.”
Ershad claimed that a news report published in the daily Azadi on June 4, 1981, headlined “Enraged armed people shoot Abul Manzoor dead and two cohorts during mutiny,” was true.
“Ershad told the judge that police handed Manzoor over to the army at the directive of then acting President Abdus Sattar,” the then home secretary Mahbubuzzaman told the investigation officer of the case in his statement.
Ershad submitted his statement to the special court on Nazimuddin Road and presented an oral summary.
Another defendant, Major (retd) Kazi Emdadul Haque, also filed a deposition and narrated its summary before the court. He pleaded not guilty.
According to the trial documents, 28 out of 49 witnesses, including investigation officer Abdul Kahar Akand, testified before the court.
The other charge-sheeted accused in the case were Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Mostafa Kamal Uddin Bhuiyan, Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Shams, and Major General (retd) Adbul Latif. The court had previously granted bail to all of the accused.
On February 28, 1995, brother of the slain Abul Manzoor lodged a case with Panchlaish police station in Chittagong, accusing Major Emdadul of killing Manzoor. On July 15, the assistant police super that the time, Abdul Kahar Akand, submitted the charge sheet to the court.
The then army chief, Abu Saleh Md Nasim, and metropolitan judge, Abul Hashem, gave testimony before the court on October 28, 2010.
Soon after the current government assumed power, the hearing of testimony in the case came to a standstill.