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Bangladesh's top opposition leaders indicted

Publication Date : 01-08-2012

 

Forty-six opposition leaders, including acting secretary general of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, will go on trial this week in a case filed for torching a bus during a countrywide shutdown.

A court in Bangladesh capital Dhaka yesterday framed charges against them and set August 7 for the trial to begin.

BNP leaders on several occasions have alleged that the case was filed only to prevent the opposition leaders from taking part at the next elections.

The leaders may get a maximum of five years' imprisonment if the allegations against them are proved. As per the law, the case, which was filed under the speedy trial act, has to be dealt with within 60 working days.

The court yesterday also issued arrest warrants against BNP leaders Sadeque Hossain Khoka, Amanullah Aman and Nazimuddin Alam after rejecting their bail petitions in the arson case.

Lawyers for the opposition politicians said they would go to the High Court against this charge framing.

BNP standing committee member and senior lawyer Rafiqul Islam Mia said the charge framing was nothing but an indication that the government wanted to push the country into chaos.

The arson case was filed on April 29 with Tejgaon Police Station after a bus was torched in front of the Prime Minister's Office during a countrywide hartal (shutdown) enforced by the opposition.

Metropolitan Magistrate Harun-or-Rashid framed the charges yesterday, rejecting the adjournment petition filed by defence lawyers. Fakhrul and 38 others were present during the charge framing.

Following the developments at court, pro-BNP lawyers brought out a procession on the court premises protesting the orders.

Protesting the charge framing, BNP leader Rafiqul Islam Mia said charges could not be framed against opposition leaders, including the BNP secretary general, if anyone took the first information report into consideration.

“Thousands of criminals were released from jail as the government withdrew even murder and rape cases in the last three years. On the other hand, cases are being filed one after another against opposition leaders,” he told The Daily Star.

Earlier, Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Erfan Ullah felt embarrassed when defence lawyers filed a no-confidence petition against him as he had rejected two of their petitions during yesterday's hearing. The metropolitan magistrate then sent the matter to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court for the next course of action.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Bikash Kumar Saha sent the case to Metropolitan Magistrate Harun-or-Rashid for disposal. Later, Magistrate Harun-or-Rashid framed charges against the opposition leaders.

Petition rejections

Earlier in the day, defence lawyers submitted a petition before Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Erfan Ullah saying that they had filed a writ petition with the High Court on Sunday challenging the legality of appointing him to conduct the case.

As an order on the writ was yet to be delivered and the issues remained pending with the High Court, the defence yesterday prayed for an adjournment of the hearing on charge framing.

The prosecution opposed it saying that the High Court had neither passed an order nor issued a stay order on the matter. So, the case proceedings should go on.

After hearing both sides, the court rejected the adjournment petition. Following that, the defence filed another petition seeking permission to appeal to the High Court challenging the rejection order. The court rejected that petition too.

In this situation, the defence filed the no-confidence petition against the magistrate.

The accused

Of the 46 accused, acting chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Maqbul Ahmad and three leaders of Jamaat's student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir have been absconding since the case was filed.

Former Dhaka City Corporation mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka was abroad for treatment while BNP leaders Amanullah Aman and Nazimuddin Alam were in Saudi Arabia for Umrah.

The remaining 39 opposition leaders, including Fakhrul, were present during yesterday's proceedings.

Background

On May 10, detectives pressed charges against Mirza Fakhrul and 45 others in the arson case, which was filed with Tejgaon Police station following the setting on fire of a vehicle in front of the Prime Minister's Office on April 29 during hartal hours.

Opposition alliances had enforced the hartal on the day to protest the disappearance of the party's organising secretary M Ilias Ali.

Soon after the filing of the case, all the opposition leaders, including Alamgir, went into hiding and then surrendered before the High Court on May 7. In line with HC directives they surrendered before the trial court on May 16. Subsequently the court sent them to jail.

On June 7 and 14, the politicians obtained bail from the High Court and trial court.

 

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