Vol. 5 Num 1101 Fri. July 06, 2007  
Front Page

Sigma sent to jail in Tk 2.4cr bribery case
Charges framed against Huda too

A special court yesterday ordered Sigma Huda into jail after framing charges against her and her husband former communications minister Nazmul Huda in a case for taking Tk 2.4 crore in bribe from a contractor.

Before the hearing on charge framing, Sigma surrendered to the Special Judge's Court-2 set up at the MP Hostel on Jatiya Sangsad complex as she lost her claim to immunity from arrest and detention in a legal battle in the High Court recently.

Meanwhile, an executive of Uttara Motors Ltd yesterday filed a Tk 1 crore extortion case against Nazmul Huda.

In the bribery case, Special Court judge A K Roy after a six-hour hearing of the prosecution and defence sides from 10:00am on charge framing also fixed the dates for taking witnesses' deposition from July 9 to July 19.

The court asked the jail authorities to ensure proper treatment of Sigma in line with the jail code.

The defence lawyers also appealed to the court for granting division for Sigma in jail.

Earlier, the defence lawyers submitted petition for the fifth time praying for adjournment of hearing on charge framing on grounds of Sigma's illness and absence of a senior defence lawyer. But the court rejected the petition and framed the charges. The defence lawyers had earlier got the hearing adjourned for 12 days by submitting petitions four times.

Sigma, secretary general of Bangladesh Society for Enforcement of Human Rights, who was under treatment at a city hospital, was taken to the court in an ambulance. The ambulance entered the Sangsad Bhaban area followed by two vehicles of the joint forces. Sigma appeared before the court lying on a stretcher with oxygen pipes in her nose, and accompanied by her two daughters and sister Khushi Kabir at 2:40pm.

During the hearing, Nazmul Huda said normal situation is not prevailing in the country and justice cannot be ensured to him when there is someone to influence the process of law. "I know that for saying this, period of imprisonment might rise to 14 years from five years."

Questioning transparency of the court proceedings, Huda said is it a 'secret trial' or a 'camera court'. He also said a court's mind should be free of everything.

At this stage, the judge said the court is free and fair, and that is why you can talk freely.

On the charge of taking bribe, Huda said, "I did not have any necessity to realise money using my power as minister since my profession (as barrister) is good enough to keep me going well. I was brought up like son of a zamindar and I worked for the country. The development that took place in the communications sector during my tenure is apparent."

As Sigma Huda lay pale and speechless on a stretcher, Nazmul defended his wife saying she is only publisher of the newspaper "Khaborer Antorale" and everything else including taking editorial decisions and signing cheques for it was done by me.

He further said the man who filed the case against him even knowing that he would also be an offender by filing the bribery case seems to be under severe threat and forced to file the case.

"Seeing different newspapers doing yellow journalism, I launched the newspaper intending to publish news of the deprived people, who were misrepresented in different newspapers," said Huda.

The hearing was then adjourned till 4:00pm after hearing the accused, prosecution and defence lawyers. On a request from Huda, the court allowed him to remain with his family until the hearing resumed.

ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission) Deputy Director Shafiqul Islam filed the case against the former minister and his wife with Dhanmondi Police Station on March 21 for taking Tk 2.4 crore in bribe from Mir Zahir Hossain, owner of Mir Akter Hossain Ltd, a construction firm.

On June 4, the ACC pressed charges against them. Zahir's deposition to a magistrate corroborated the allegations against Huda.

Huda is widely believed to be one of the most corrupt ministers in the past BNP-led alliance government.

Managing Director (MD) of Uttara Motors Ltd Matiur Rahman yesterday filed the case against Huda with Dhanmondi Police Station complaining that he had forced the company to pay Tk 1 crore.

According to the case statement, Huda "threatened to kill" the complainant and shut their business if he failed to make payment.

A scared Rahman paid him money at his office on three dates---December 1, 2002, Feb 19, 2003 and March 11, 2003, according to the complaint.

The complainant mentioned that he had given Tk 50 lakh in cash at Huda's residence and the rest Tk 50 lakh in two cheques on the three dates.

The joint forces arrested Huda from his Dhanmondi residence on February 4 on charges of corruption.