January 13, 2014

Ershad freed from CMH, made Prime Minister’s special envoy

Jatiya Party chairman and former president Hossein Mohammad Ershad was freed from Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka on Sunday after a month-long mysterious admission to CMH. He was made ‘special envoy’ of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, with the status of a full minister.
Ershad, who had reportedly been ‘detained’ from his President Park house at Baridhara on December 12 and taken to the CMH, joined the oath taking ceremony of the new cabinet members at Ganabhaban in the afternoon as a guest after he had been ‘released’ from the CMH.
A gazette notification signed by cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said Ershad had been made the special envoy of the prime minister with the status of a minister. 
The notification neither gave the details of the responsibilities of the special envoy and nor said under which law Ershad was appointed the special envoy. Another notification said the prime minister using the power vested in her by Section 3B(1) of the Rules of Business 1996, appointed the four advisers with the status of full minister.
After the oath taking ceremony, Ershad drove straight to his residence at about 6:30pm using the road inside Dhaka cantonment.  His party supporters crowded the house before he reached there. After getting down from his jeep, a composed Ershad went straight to his apartment without talking to anybody.
His party presidium member SM Faisal Chisti told the gathering - Sir has returned home in good health.
Ershad’s mysterious admission to the CMH had spun a lot of stories and one morning he was seen playing golf at Kurmitola Golf Club in Dhaka cantonment.
On Saturday, Ershad took oath as a lawmaker of the 10th parliament formed through the January 5 elections boycotted by the BNP-led opposition, after he was taken to the national assembly building by a group of people said to be intelligence men who took him back to the CMH.

July 16, 2013

Ghulam Azam verdict - 90 years in prison

International Crimes Tribunal 1 (ICT-1) on Monday handed former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam 90 years in prison for conspiracies, planning, incitement to and complicity in the genocide and crimes against humanity and murder of four civilians during the War of Liberation in 1971.
The three-member International Crimes Tribunal-1 pronounced the historic verdict against Ghulam Azam, now 91, in the crowded courtroom on the first floor of the Old High Court building in tight security.
‘Having considered the attending facts, legal position and the gravity and magnitude of the offences committed by the accused, we unanimously hold that he deserves the highest punishment i.e capital punishment … But in the same breath, we cannot overlook the mitigating circumstances which have come up before us for its due consideration,’ presiding judge Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said.
He said that Ghulam Azam was 91 years of age with his long ailment and the two factors had been considered in taking a lenient view in giving him punishment.
Ghulam Azam in panjabi, lungi and a white cap was produced before the tribunal in a wheelchair.
As the tribunal completed delivering the verdict at around 1:45pm, he was speechless, looking around blankly and touching his forehead sitting in the dock.
The law enforcers took him to the ground floor of the tribunal building.
Thousands of people, freedom fighters, political and cultural activists, who gathered outside the tribunal, burst into protest as the
tribunal handed Ghulam Azam 90 years in jail instead of death sentence.
The tribunal found him guilty on all 61 counts under five charges of conspiracy, planning, incitement to and complicity in committing genocide and crimes against humanity and murder of four civilians. He was indicted on May 13, 2012 on 61 counts.
The tribunal awarded him 10 years in jail each for conspiracy and planning, 20 years each for incitement to and complicity in the genocide and crimes against humanity committed across the country and 30 years for the murder of Siru Miah and three other civilians in Brahmanbaria.
‘The period of sentences awarded to the accused shall run consecutively or till his death,’ Justice ATM Fazle Kabir said pronouncing the unanimous verdict.
Ghulam Azam is now undergoing treatment in the prison cell of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital under the Dhaka Central Jail authorities.
This was the fifth verdict in war crimes cases in independent Bangladesh and the second by the ICT-1, constituted on March 25, 2010.
A large number of freedom fighters, lawyers, intellectuals, cultural activists and journalists were present in the courtroom to hear the verdict.
A few of junior lawyers of the defence team, including Saifur Rahman, Tariqul Islam and Sajjad Ali Chowdhury, were present though their seniors did not turn up because of what they said ‘unavoidable circumstances’.
Jamaat enforced a countrywide shutdown on the day to press for release of Ghulam Azam and other leaders facing the war crimes charges.
Emerging from the tribunal after the verdict, the prosecution chief coordinator, along with other members of the team, said he was not completely happy with the verdict as Ghulam Azam was not handed death sentence.
When asked whether they would appeal to the Appellate Division against the verdict, he said that they would decide after receiving and going through the full verdict.
Chief defence counsel Abdur Razzaq, at a press briefing at his Dhanmondi house said, ‘We are aggrieved. We are astonished. We think the verdict was emotional and devoid of justice. Such a verdict can hardly be found in the history of the world’s criminal cases. The prosecution has failed to prove any of the 61 counts against Ghulam Azam,’
He said that the defence would appeal against the verdict in the Appellate Division.
Ghulam Azam’s son Abdullahil Aman Azmi, coming out the tribunal, said that the case against his father was ‘a case of no evidence’.
He said that if justice had been done, his father would not have been given even a minute’s sentence. ‘He would have been freed if justice had been done.’
Azmi termed his father a ‘language movement hero’ who was general secretary of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union twice and the verdict was delivered to ‘destroy his image’.
On April 17, on completion of the closing arguments by the lawyers of the two sides, the tribunal reserved the verdict for pronouncement on a later date.
Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, before delivering the verdict, it had taken the tribunal about three months to collect reference books which caused the delay in the delivery of the verdict.
He said that the full judgement was of 243 pages and the tribunal would read out a summary judgement of 75 pages.
Besides the presiding judge, two other tribunal members – Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque – also read out parts of the verdict.

May 11, 2013

Reshma rescued after 17 days

It’s a miracle! A garment worker named Reshma was rescued alive on Friday afternoon from a mountain of rubble of collapsed multi-storey building Rana Plaza on the 17th day of hectic salvage operation into the country’s worst industrial disaster at Savar. The army-led rescuers traced the survivor in a basement cavity under the debris of Rana Plaza at around 3:15pm. Almost 408 hours into the rescue operation, a rescuer heard Reshma groaning, officials on the spot said.
Rescue workers said as they could see somebody moving a small stick, peeping through a hole of a collapsed roof, they were confused whether any of the rescue workers was trapped in. They talked to her through a pipe and came to know about her identity. As the jubilant rescuers inquired about her condition, Reshma said she was not much hurt.
She said she was trapped under the collapsed building and went to the room of Namaz (Muslim prayer). “I used to eat the foods left by others. I drank drops of water poured into the room from the above. At one stage, the foods were finished—and I was living on small quantity of water.” She said she had been starving in last two days as all foods were finished.
Having traced the survivor, rescuers had given her water and biscuits, stopping use of any heavy machines to make sure that the survivor is not hurt anyway.
“I used to hear the sound of machines used by the rescuers and hoped that I will be brought to safety by the grace of Allah,” she added.
“All present at the site raised their hands in prayer to have the working girl alive amongst them,” says a firsthand account of the breathtaking moment—rarely seen before. She was taken to Savar CMH immediately after the rescue.
Reshma is the youngest of the three daughters and two brothers born to their parents. Her husband, Razzak, left her seven months ago. Hailed from village Kashigari in Ghoraghat upazila of Dinajpur, Reshma used to work at New Wave Bottoms on the second floor of the commercial complex, Rana Plaza.
Army doctors at the CMH said she is out of danger. Yet the physicians were examining her for more safety.
On April 24, the 9-storey building, which housed five garment factories, a branch of bank and a market, collapsed all of a sudden. The death toll rose to 1058 in the worst accident in the garment industry - country’s main export earner and employer of around four million people, mainly women.
Bangladesh Today