Wednesday 7, June 2023

After 18 years, verdict due today

News Desk: A Dhaka court is set to deliver verdict over the murder of Prof Humayun Azad after 18 long years as the alleged negligence of investigators and prosecution delayed the trial completion.

The illustrated author and academic of Dhaka University was stabbed near Bangla Academy in the capital on February 27, 2004. Prof Azad was attacked by militants while he was about to get on a rickshaw on his way to his university residence from the Ekushey Boi Mela.

The judgment in the case against four members of the banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is set to be delivered today.

Prof Azad was found dead at his apartment in Germany six months after the attack. The charge sheet quoting the autopsy report said the attack resulted in the victim's death. Azad went to Germany on a research scholarship.

According to the court documents, it took eight years to complete the probe in the case while another eight and half years had gone by to complete the trial, causing frustration among his family members and admirers. The families even stopped keeping up with the case after a while, said Mauli Azad, daughter of the victim.

"It has been 18 years," she said. "Every time my father's death anniversary arrives, journalists call us asking for updates on the case. We would call the state lawyers, and sometimes find the proceedings pretty much, where they were the year before."

A day after the murder attempt, Azad's brother Manjur Kabir filed an attempted murder case with Ramna Police Station against some unnamed people. The case was later turned into a murder case with his death.

Five days after the incident, Kazi Abdul Malek, an inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department, took the charge of the probe. After three and a half years of the probe, IO Malek submitted a charge sheet accusing five JMB men, including its chief Shaykh Abdur Rahman, on November 14, 2007.

However, dissatisfied with the probe, the complainant filed a petition with a Dhaka court, seeking further probe into the case. Following the petition, the court ordered further investigation on October 20, 2009.

After the court's order, another CID inspector Mustafizur Rahman was assigned to reinvestigate the case. But he was transferred to Chattogram Range Police. Later, the case was handed over to another CID inspector Luthfor Rahman to reinvestigate.

Investigator Luthfor took two years more time to complete the probe. He submitted a supplementary charge sheet against five JMB operatives -- Nur Mohammad, Mizanur Rahman Minhaz, Anwarul Alam Anwar, Salehin alias Salahuddin and Hafiz Mahmud -- under murder charges on April 30, 2012.

The court framed charges against five on September 10, 2012. After three months, the trial began with the deposition of the complainant. The prosecution produced 41 out of 58 prosecution witnesses before the court for depositions from 2013 to 2017, which delayed the trial proceedings.

"The trial proceedings in the case were delayed as some witnesses were abroad. Moreover, the court remained closed for a long time due to the Covid-19 pandemic," Additional Public Prosecutor Shaiful Islam Helal told The Daily Star.

The defence lawyers delayed the trial proceedings, taking many times during arguments, the state lawyers claimed. However, Faruque Ahmed, a defence lawyer, said the prosecution failed to produce witnesses before the court in time, so the trial proceedings had delayed.

"We have always helped the prosecution to complete the trial," he insisted. Contacted, IO Luthfor Rahman said they got the autopsy report from abroad late, so they took time to submit the probe.

After the attack, Azad was treated at the Combined Military Hospital for some 24 days. Later, he was taken to Bangkok for better treatment. He returned home after 46 days. Of the accused, Mizanur and Anwarul confessed to the attack. They are now behind bars. The remaining two accused are on the run.

On February 23, 2014, accused Hafiz Mahmud was killed in a "gunfight" with the law enforcers after he had fled from a prison van. So, his name was dropped from the trial.


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