Vol. 5 Num 606 Fri. February 10, 2006  
Front Page

Killing of Jhalakathi Judges
Sunny, Awal, bomber jailed for 40 years
Trial to continue as one denies charge and 4 others still at large

A Barisal court yesterday sentenced top Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leaders Ataur Rahman Sunny and Abdul Awal and suicide bomber Iftekhar Hasan Al Mamun to 40 years' rigorous imprisonment each for killing two judges in Jhalakathi.

Barisal Speedy Trial Tribunal passed the verdict on the day set for framing charges against the militants as the detained JMB leaders pleaded guilty.

The trial, however, will continue as Sultan, a charge-sheeted accused, has denied the allegation brought against him and the rest four--JMB chief Abdur Rahman, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, Molla Omar alias Shakil Ahmed of Tangail and Amzad alias Khaled Saifullah of Pirojpur--are still at large.

Ataur Rahman Sunny, head of the JMB military wing, is also a younger brother of Abdur Rahman. Abdul Awal is a member of JMB Majlish-e-Shura (highest policymaking body) and Abdur Rahman's son-in-law.

Sohel Ahmed, 35, senior assistant judge of Nalchhiti upazila, and Jagannath Pandey, 38, senior assistant judge of the Sadar upazila, died and three people were wounded when Mamun blew up a microbus carrying the judges in Jhalakathi on November 14 last year.

Police caught Mamun immediately after the blast and seized an unexploded bomb strapped to his thigh.

After the case filed under Explosive Substances Act was transferred to the Barisal court, Judge Abdul Matin fixed six consecutive dates for framing the charges. But until yesterday Sunny and Awal could not be produced before the court.

The two JMB leaders were brought to the tribunal at 9:15am amid tight security. Members of police, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and Armed Police Battalion stood guard on and around the court premises.

At first, the law enforcers did not allow journalists except those from BTV and a newly-launched TV channel. Later they were let in following intervention by the judge and the lawyers.

On taking seat, Judge Abdul Matin read out the allegations brought against the militants. He then asked each of the four detained accused--Sunny, Awal, Mamun and Sultan--for their versions.

Sunny, Awal and Mamun instantly confessed to committing the crime. They also stated the statements they had made earlier to a magistrate were true. But Sultan Khan denied the allegation.

The judge convicted Mamun of carrying out a bomb attack on the two judges and awarded rigorous life imprisonment under section three of Explosive Substances Act and another 10 years in prison under section four. Both the sentences will take effect at the same time.

Sunny and Awal were declared guilty for aiding and abetting the bombing and sentenced each to 40 years in prison.

The court framed charges against Sultan and the four on the run and fixed February 14 as the date for next hearing.

After the bombing on November 14, Mamun, who was undergoing treatment at Barisal Medical College Hospital for the injuries sustained in the blast, gave confessional statement to a magistrate the same day.

Sultan Hossain, driver of the microbus, filed two cases, one for murder and the other under Explosive Substances Act, accusing Mamun. After investigation, Sohrab Hossain, officer-in-charge of Jhalakthi Police Station, submitted a charge sheet against the eight.

After the court order, the JMB military chief said they have been dealt out the sentences for trying to establish the rule of Allah. "We are not sorry for what we have done. We've dedicated our lives to working for Islam," he told the newsmen.

Rita Pandey Pallabi, the widow of Jagannath Pandey, expressed satisfaction over the court's order. "I hope the other accused too will make an admission of guilt as did Sunny, Awal and Mamun," she said in her reaction to the verdict.

"I would not have to be in white [dress] had they realised earlier that what they'd been doing was wrong," she said, bursting into tears.

Thanking the government for giving her a job in a bank, Rita requested the police to be prompt in submitting a charge sheet in the murder case.