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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2396

Bangladesh : 14 to death over 10 truck arms smuggling

From our diplomatic Correspondent :
Dhaka , 01 February, (Asiantribune.com):

Bangladesh Court sentenced death over arms smuggling 10-truck arms into Chittagong in 2004.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, former BNP State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar and ULFA's military wing chief Paresh Barua will have to die along with 11 others for smuggling The court on Thursday also awarded life sentences to all these 14 in the second case filed under the Arms Act.

The others who got death and life in the two cases are- former Industries Secretary Nurul Amin, former NSI field officer Akbar Hossain Khan, former NSI Director (Security) Wing Commander (rtd) Shahabuddin, former NSI Director General (DG) Brigadier General (rtd) Md Abdur Rahim, former NSI DG Major General (rtd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, former NSI Deputy Director (Technical) Major (rtd) Liakat Hossain, former Managing Director of CUFL Mohsin Uddin Talukder and General Manager (administration) KM Enamul Haq. Smugglers Hafizur Rahman, Deen Mohammad and their accomplice Haji Md Abdus Sobhan were also given death penalty in the case filed under Special Power Act for smuggling of arms.

Of them, Amin and Barua are absconding. Haji Md Abdus Sobhan was brought to the court for the verdict and later the police took him to jail. He was out on bail.

The 14 have been fined Tk 500,000 subject to approval of the High Court.

All of them were also given life in prison in the second case filed under the Arms Act.

The court also awarded the 14 rigorous imprisonments for seven years under the Section 19 (f) of the Arms Act.

Both prison sentences will be carried out simultaneously, said the verdict pronounced by Chittagong Metropolitan Sessions Judge and Special Tribunal-1 judge SM Mojibur Rahman at 12:30pm on Thursday, in a courtroom packed with lawyers, journalists and observers.

However, the time they have already spent in jail would be deducted from the prison sentences.

The other 38 accused on both cases were acquitted. The convicts would be able to appeal in the High Court against the verdict.

In his immediate reaction, Law Minister Anisul Haque said that the verdict has reflected the Awami League government’s pledge to establish rule of law.

“This verdict would make those who have the tendency to commit crime think again before doing so”, he told reporters.

Police seized 10 truck-loads of weapons in a raid on a state-owned jetty in the southeastern port city of Chittagong in 2004. The origin of the arms has never been established publicly, but they were believed to have been bound for insurgents in India.

“This smuggling of huge cache of arms was a crime committed with collaboration from the then BNP-Jamaat led coalition government. This was done to fuel terrorism, ” Law Minister Anisul Haque said.

Asked whether the BNP-Jamaat government should be commended for the seizure of arms when they were in power, Haque said, “We know very well how these were seized. These weapons would have been used to build a mini-cantonment.”

Police had seized 10 trucks of weapons and ammunition from the state-owned Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL) jetty on the banks of Karnafuli River in Chittagong’s Anowara while being offloaded from two fishing trawlers on the early hours of April 2, 2004. Around 1,500 boxes containing submachine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, submachine carbines, Chinese pistols, rocket shells and launchers, hand grenades and bullets were seized.

The verdict on the cases came on Thursday, nearly 10 years after the seizure of the huge cache of arms that took the nation by surprise and had caused a furor. Investigations revealed 10 truckloads of arms and ammunition had been manufactured in China and they were shipped for the Indian separatists, ULFA.

The Daily Star reports : During the trial proceedings earlier, the prosecution claimed to have proved the charges and sought the highest punishment of the accused, while the defence sought the acquittal of their clients, saying the state lawyers had “failed” to prove the charges.

In an unusual instance, the first charge-sheet was submitted in the arms case by hastily wrapping up the investigation in two months, while the charge-sheet in the smuggling case was submitted in four months.

The trial of both the cases started in 2005 with several loopholes as the probes overlooked some important factors such as who had brought the arms, from which country, what was the destination and how was a jetty of a state-owned body used for unloading the weapons.

Besides, only small fry, mostly laborers, truckers and trawler drivers were implicated, leaving out the big shots, as the then BNP-led government allegedly tried to cover up the involvement of the state machinery, including its ministers and high officials of intelligence agencies.

However, after the 1/11 changeover in 2007, the Court of Chittagong Metropolitan Judge on February 14, 2008 ordered further investigation following a prosecution petition and the cases took a new turn.

Muniruzzaman Chowdhury, senior assistant superintendent of Criminal Investigation Department and the fifth investigation officer of the cases, submitted two supplementary charge-sheets in June 2011, accusing 11 new suspects including Babar and Nizami.

Paresh Barua, Brig Gen (retd) Rahim, Maj Gen (retd) Rezzakul who was later appointed as the DG of NSI, were also charged in both the cases.

All 11 new suspects, except Ulfa leader Paresh and Nurul Amin are now behind bars. With their inclusion the number of the total accused rose to 50 and 52 in the arms and smuggling cases respectively.

Of them, 12 in the arms case and 13 in the smuggling case have been absconding.

The long-delayed trial finally began at the Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1 on November 29, 2011 and 56 prosecution witnesses testified in the arms case and 53 in the smuggling case.

After proceedings lasting over 35 long months, Judge SM Mojibur Rahman of the tribunal on January 13 set the date of verdict in the cases reports the daily star today.

- Asian Tribune -

Bangladesh  : 14 to death over  10 truck arms smuggling
Bangladesh  : 14 to death over  10 truck arms smuggling
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