Six JMB militants hanged |
Julfikar Ali Manik and Shariful Islam
Six top militants including Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) supremo Abdur Rahman and his deputy Bangla Bhai were executed late Thursday night for killing two Jhalakathi judges.
They swung from the gallows between 11:45pm and midnight at four different jails amid tight security, said prison sources.
The executions mark in all probability the end of country's first overt militancy campaign that rattled the nation through a series of coordinated blasts and suicide bombings in 2005.
They came within three years of the BNP-Jamaat alliance government's denying the existence of Islamic militancy. The ruling coalition high-ups even went on to describe JMB operations commander Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai as mere creation of the media.
But later on February 23, 2005 the government was forced to eat humble pie and ban JMB and its offshoot Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh (JMJB) that sought to establish Shariah (Islamic law).
Abdur Rahman was hanged at Comilla jail, Bangla Bhai and Abdul Awal, JMB Majlish-e-Shura (highest decision-making body) member and Rahman's son-in-law, at Mymensingh jail. The outfit's military commander and Rahman's youngest brother Ataur Rahman Sunny and suicide bomber Iftekhar Hasan Mamun were executed at Kashimpur jail in Gazipur while another Shura member Khaled Saifullah at Pabna jail.
The members of police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) carried the bodies to the JMB leaders' village homes at the crack of dawn yesterday and handed those to their relatives.
Earlier on May 29 last year, Additional District and Sessions Judge's Court, Jhalakathi condemned to death seven JMB men--the ones executed, and Asadul Islam alias Arif who is still at large, for killing senior assistant judges Jagannath Pandey and Sohel Ahmed in a suicide blast in the district town on November 14, 2005.
The JMB cadres had killed and maimed many people during their decade-long underground operations that climaxed with around 500 nearly synchronised blasts in all but one district and a public declaration of Jihad on August 17, 2005.
A spate of deadly suicide bombings following hard on the heels soon put the people's nerves on edge. The attacks left at least 30 people dead and those included judges, lawyers and policemen.
Aided and abetted by a few ruling alliance leaders, lawmakers and ministers and members in local administration and police, vigilante gangs of the JMJB had terrorised Rajshahi, Naogaon and Natore in the name of ridding the northern districts of outlawed Sarbahara and Purbo Banglar Communist Party in 2004. They killed at least 22 people and injured scores at that time.
Besides, they had claimed responsibility for the blasts at three cinemas in Mymensingh and different cultural programmes, assault on Humayun Azad and murder of Rajshahi University teacher Prof Muhammad Yunus.
On seeing the bodies in the early morning hours, the slain militants' relatives were dazed and frightened as none of them were informed of the exact time of execution.
The news media too were not allowed any specifics about the date and time. The prison authorities on March 22 officially announced that they had received a copy of the president's rejection of mercy petitions that day and according to the jail code, they would execute the militants in between April 13 and 19.
"Actually, we had received the president's decision on the mercy pleas much before the media was informed. And the executions have taken place immediately after 21 days since the receipt," a prison source said.
As per the code, death sentences have to be executed not before 21 days and within 28 days since receiving the copy of president's rejection. "We have executed the militants according to the jail code," it added.
The authorities had deliberately misled the media so that none could know the exact date and time. This all had been done for security reasons, said sources in the prison administration.
Even the family members who in the meantime had met their convicted relatives could not get that it was their last meeting.
Zakir Hossain, brother of Khaled Saifullah, told The Daily Star yesterday that Saifullah's wife and another brother met him at Rangpur jail Sunday. They even talked to the authorities about visiting him again on April 1. "We did not know that we are never going to see him again," he added.
Zakir said his family learnt about the execution only after the law enforcers brought the body to their house at Kawkhali in Pirojpur.
Like Saifullah's, relatives of the five others did not know the time and date. "We knew that the journalists were in contact with relatives of the six. So we did not let the families know the time of execution," said the prison source.
The militants were informed of their execution just two hours before they were hanged.
Except for Mamun, the condemned JMB leaders were calm and composed after hearing that they would be hanged soon.
Prison officials requesting not to be named said that either Rahman or Bangla Bhai had commented, "We are prepared. There's nothing to inform us."
But Mamun burst into tears as he was told that he would be hanged shortly.
The entire affair had been kept secret on orders from the government high-ups, said a prison source.
On their way to the court, Jagannath Pandey and Sohel Ahmed were waiting in a microbus in Quarter Palli area in Jhalakathi town when Mamun blew off their vehicle.
Sohel died on the spot and Jagannath later at the hospital. Critically injured, the suicide bomber was arrested on the scene.
Two separate cases were filed with the Jhalakathi Police Station--one for murder and the other for explosion.
On February 20, 2006 Barisal Divisional Speedy Trial Tribunal awarded Abdur Rahman, Bangla Bhai, Molla Omar (killed in Rab action in Comilla) and Khaled Saifullah each with 40-year rigorous imprisonment in the blast case.
The charge sheet in the murder case was submitted on March 21, 2006 and the court framed charges on April 23 the same year. The court delivered judgment on May 29 last year following examination of 45 witnesses and arguments from both the sides.
Besides the seven condemned, the investigators found proof of six others' involvement in the conspiracy to kill the judges. They did not press charge against Omar as he had died in Rab action by that time.
Though the charge against Mehedi, Moaz, Talha and Mahmud was proved primarily, they were not charge-sheeted, as their full address could not be found. The investigators said they would submit a supplementary charge sheet later if they could collect the addresses.
Of the charge-sheeted accused, Sultan Khan was acquitted, as the allegation against him could not be proved.
Immediately after the verdict, the government took steps for quick disposal of the death reference case against a backdrop of some 500 cases awaiting paper-book preparation (history of the case) and death reference hearing at the HC.
The HC later granted permission for preparing the paper book of the case on a priority basis. On completion of that, hearing of the death reference began on August 1 and ended on August 23, after 10 working days.
The HC on August 31 last year upheld the trial court's verdict.
The convicts repeatedly said they would neither accept any verdict of an 'worldly court' nor appeal it. But in a U-turn after the HC verdict, they appealed to the Supreme Court against the death sentences on November 28 last year.
The prison authorities received the copy of the apex court's rejection order on January 21 this year and primarily, they had fixed February 17 as the date for execution. But it was cancelled when the militants petitioned the president for clemency at the end of January. On March 4, the president rejected the petitions.
In the letters sent to SC registrar after the August 31 judgment, Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai once again sought to rationalise killings of the people for establishing Islamic rule. All judges, who conduct trial under Taguti (non-Islamic) laws disregarding the Shariah, deserve death, the letters read.
The SC registrar took the letters as appeals through the jail authority.
Blasting the judges for handing them death sentences "through a farcical trial on the basis of British laws and false witnesses", Bangla Bhai had said, "I think you [judges] have shown that you are disloyal to Allah. It's you who should be condemned to death."
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