Nov 29 Cases will go to trial

Posted on November 15, 2011

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The much-awaited trial in the 10-truck arms haul cases is finally set to get underway on November 29.

A Chittagong court yesterday framed formal charges against 11 accused, including Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar in connection with the biggest-ever arms bust in the history of the country.

Nine of the accused were produced before the court.

On April 2, 2004, around 1,500 wooden boxes containing submachine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, submachine carbines, Chinese pistols, rocket shells and launchers, hand grenades and bullets were seized from two vessels at Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Limited (CUFL) jetty.

Two cases were filed the next day with Karnaphuli Police Station under the Special Powers Act for arms smuggling and under the Arms Act.

The arms and ammunition were taken to the warehouse in the port city’s Dampara Police Lines in 10 trucks guarded by a huge contingent of police, coastguards and border force members.

In 2004, investigators submitted the first charge sheet against 45 people in the smuggling and 43 people in the arms case. Four people, who were accused in both cases, have since died.

After yesterday’s charge framing against the 11, all named in the supplementary charge sheet, the cases are ready for trial.

Metropolitan Sessions Judge SM Mujibur Rahman fixed November 29 to begin trying more than 50 persons through hearing depositions.

Of the 11, Babar, Nizami, Brig Gen (retd) Abdur Rahim, former director general of National Security Intelligence (NSI); Maj Gen (retd) Rezzaqul Haider Chowdhury, former director of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence and DG of NSI; former NSI director Wing Commander (retd) Shahab Uddin, ex-NSI deputy director Maj (retd) Liakat Hossain, ex-NSI field officer Akbar Hossain Khan, ex- CUFL managing director Mohsin Talukder and former general manager (admin) Enamul Hoque have been behind bars and were taken to yesterday’s proceedings.

Tow others — Paresh Barua, leader of Indian separatist outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), and former additional secretary of industries Nurul Amin — are yet to be arrested.

Hafizur Rahman and Deen Mohammad, two other accused named in the original charge sheet and indicted in 2005, were also taken to court.

After the supplementary charge sheet was submitted on June 26 this year, the number of accused stood at 52 in the case filed for smuggling the firearms and 50 in the arms case.

With the hearing on charge framing commencing on Monday afternoon, counsels of the nine, who are named in the supplementary charge sheet, placed arguments till 4:00pm yesterday.

They stated that the allegations against their clients were baseless and “politically motivated”.

The defence lawyers added that the nine had not been included in the first information report or the original charge sheet. Moreover, no specific allegations had been made in the supplementary charge sheet.

They also criticised the replacement of ASP Md Ismail by Senior ASP Moniruzzaman of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as the investigation officer of the cases.

Public Prosecutor Kamal Uddin said the Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court had ordered further investigation following an appeal from the then PP Ahsanul Haque Hena on February 14, 2008 during the term of the last caretaker government.

Moniruzzaman was made IO back then, not during this government’s rule, he said.

He claimed that the investigation was not “politically motivated” since none of the nine newly accused, except for Babar and Nizami, was a “political person” and the allegations were specific.

After hearing both sides, the judge asked the nine accused present in the courtroom whether they had anything to say, according to court sources.

At first Nizami claimed innocence and then the other accused, including Babar, loudly asserted that they were not guilty.

The judge said none could be termed guilty or innocent before the trial. Afterwards, he framed the charges.

The hope now is that a long wait of seven years will come to an end.

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Posted in: Bangladesh