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.

April 29, 2013

Savar Tragedy - Death toll rises to 402

Rescue workers pull a garment worker alive from the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building. Some 2444 garment worker rescued alive so far.

April 6, 2013

Hefajat-e-Islam’s Dhaka march, calls shutdown for Monday

Hefajat-e Islam on Saturday called dawn-to-dusk hartal for Monday from the grand rally that held at Motijheel intersection protesting “obstructions” on long march in various spot.
The organisation announced fresh agitation programme of rally in different district and division of the country and threatened the government of blockading Dhaka on May 5 if its 13-point demand including stern action against what they called atheist bloggers is not met by April 30.
Communications between Dhaka and the rest of the country were almost snapped on Friday as buses stayed off the roads, frequency of trains were reduced, and water vessels remained anchored at river ports fearing violence ahead of Hefajat-e-Islam’s Dhaka march today.
Transport owners said they did not operate buses on long routes on Friday fearing violence over rival programmes of ‘long march’ by Islamists and a 24-hour shutdown enforced by 25 socio-cultural-professional organisations and a transport blockade by Ganajagaran Mancha that began Friday evening.  
The Hefajat-e Islam leaders alleged that specific orders from the authorities led to the scarcity of transport. They said they would march for Dhaka ‘on foot’ in case vehicles were not available. Ferry services were also closed at Mawa point creating a long tailback of vehicles on both sides of Padma and no vessels left for Dhaka from southern districts.
Frequency of trains was reduced in the eastern zone of railway but the officials claimed they did not cancel any train. ‘The forced derailment of a train in Comilla left an adverse impact on train schedules and it is yet to become normal,’ said Bangladesh Railway’s divisional manager (Chittagong) Sukumar Bhowmik.
The railway authorities on Friday night cancelled schedules of express trains which were supposed to leave for Dhaka from different cities, including Chittagong and Rajshahi. 
In Chittagong, the railway authorities suspended trips of three trains to Dhaka and Noakhali scheduled for Saturday night while another Dhaka-bound train got stranded as miscreants removed tracks in Baraiarhat area of Sitakund. Mohammed Zakir Hossain, divisional traffic officer at the eastern zone of BR, said they had suspended the scheduled trips due to security concern amid frequent subversion during strikes.

March 12, 2013

Police stormed into BNP office - Countrywide daylong hartal today

A team of police led by ADC Mehedi Hasan stormed into BNP's central office and broke open the door of party secretary general’s room yesterday.

Police and members of other law enforcement agencies last evening stormed into the BNP central office at the city's Nayapaltan and broke into different rooms including breaking into the office room of the Party Secretary General using hammer.
The raid was unprecedented and lasted over two hours. They also arrested several senior leaders of the party who gathered at the office after attending a pre-scheduled 18-party rally in the front of the party office including Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam and Joint Secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed while putting other senior leaders on siege.
Later, police arrested BNP vice chairmen Sadeque Hossain Khoka and Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, chairperson's adviser Dr AZM Zahid Hossain, joint secretary generals Aman Ullah Aman, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed and Mohammd Shahjahan and opposition chief whip Zainul Abdin Farroque from the party office and took them to DB office in Mintu Road.
Several female leaders, including BNP vice chairman Selima Rahman, were also under siege but later they emerged from confinement while police allowed them to leave the venue. Spot reports said at least 185 BNP and 18-party leaders and workers were arrested by police from the party office during the raid and search from room to room in the five storied building. During the drive, police also ransacked different rooms of the four-storied building.
Mehedi Hasan, additional deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Motijheel), told reporters that they searched the office and arrested the leaders and workers for creating an anarchic situation in the area. He, however, claimed 6 cocktails were seized from office.
Just hour before the raid, a pre-announced rally of the 18-party alliance in front of the Nayapaltan office ended in chaos which was triggered by explosions of some cocktails. Some 10-11 cocktails were blasted at 5:00 pm near the Nightingale intersection area, some yards from the venue of the rally, when Fakhrul began his speech. Within a minute, he declared the end of the rally after announcing the hartal programme.
Fakhrul alleged that the government had ordered police to unleash violence. “The government’s henchmen are attacking our peaceful rallies,” he said and urged the party faithful to stand against such moves. He further blamed the government for Monday’s explosions. “The government has done it,” he said before he was whisked away. He said the opposition will observe countrywide hartal Tuesday (today).
Sadeque Hossain Khoka said the government has already made the country into a ‘police state’ and wants to foil the movement of the people by using muscle power under the 'razakar' home minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir. He also said under the leadership of Khaleda Zia, people would topple the government through movement and compel them to arrange the next election under non-party caretaker government.
Meanwhile, Leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia held an urgent  meeting of the party's apex body  to review the dramatic development last night at her Gulshan office, and demanded unconditional release of leaders and activists arrested from BNP's central office. Otherwise BNP and 18 party alliance will observe 48 hours of general strike countrywide on 18 & 19 March.
The alliance also reaffirmed today’s countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal earlier called by Fakhrul before his arrest from the party central office.
Meanwhile, JAGPA chief Shafiul Alam Prodhan was also picked up while coming out after a meeting of the BNP-led 18-party alliance at BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office at night.

March 5, 2013

Death toll hits 125 in 5 days

The total death toll so far rose to about 125 in violence centering the verdict on Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee on Thursday. Of those killed 113 were claimed to be Jamaat-Shibir men and also include 6 police men.

Hundreds of others including villagers received injuries from bullets in clashes between law enforcers and Jamaat-Shibir activists in atleast 18 districts countrywide.

The number of deaths and injuries were changing fast as reports of clashes and violence were pouring into the city from different places.

Bangladesh Today