JMB patron Aminul jailed |
24 others also handed 31 years behind bars for helping militants
Anwar Ali, Rajshahi
Former post and telecommunications minister barrister Aminul Haque and 24 others were yesterday sentenced to 31 years and six months' imprisonment in the first-ever judgment of a case for patronising Islamist militants.
The convicts also include Rajshahi district BNP Secretary Shish Muhammad.
The Second Additional Sessions Judge's Court, Rajshahi convicted them for aiding and abetting the militants of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in extorting and torturing people in Bagmara upazila of the district in 2004.
The convicts were also fined Tk 25,000 each and in default they will have to suffer three years more in jail.
Two accused union council chairmen--Besharatullah and Rafiqul Islam--were acquitted in the case.
Judge Rezaul Islam delivered the judgment amid tight security in the absence of 17 accused including Aminul and Shish.
JMB adviser professor Lutfar Rahman, a teacher of a madrasa in Atrai of Naogaon, Bagmara upazila JMB leader Abdus Sattar, JMB activists Killer Mostak, Korban Ali, Afzal, Akram, Amzad, Nazrul and Mizanur were present in the court during the verdict.
Other absconding convicts are Siddiq, Monayem, Jahangir, Abdul Jalil, Latif, Mostafizur Hitler, Bulbul, Mokles, Halim, and Juta Mantu.
The state employed no lawyer for the absconding accused in the case since there was no charge against them for capital punishment.
The convicts were sentenced to 30 years' rigorous imprisonment--10 years each under section 326 for injuring grievously, section 307 for attempt to murder and section 387 for extortion--and 1 year's simple imprisonment under section 342 for wrongful confinement and six months' imprisonment under section 143 for unlawful assembly.
They were fined Tk 20,000 each--Tk 10,000 each under sections 326 and 307--and Tk 5,000 under section 387.
JMB torture victim Fazlur Rahman had lodged the case on March 30 with Bagmara Police Station. The poor farmer of Hasanpur village in the upazila was abducted, tortured and forced to pay ransom for his release from the militants in April 2004.
Sub-Inspector Mukhtar Hossain submitted the charge sheet of the case on April 23.
JUDGE'S EXPLANATION FOR THE VERDICT
Briefing the court before announcing the verdict, Judge Rezaul said it is well known that Bagmara was the centre of JMB's rise and there was a torture camp at the Hamirkutsa house of accused Korban Ali's father Ramjan Kaya who is widely known as a Razakar (collaborator of the Pakistan armed forces) during the Liberation War of 1971.
"Incidents of lynching people were almost open and common during the tenure of the previous [BNP-led four-party] alliance government and through such incidents the JMB militants not only took the law in their hands, but they expressed their no-confidence on the law of the land," the judge said.
"What the JMB militants had done in the areas on the plea of cleansing Sarbahara communist outlaws were no different from the deeds of these outlaws," he added.
About former minister Aminul and BNP leader Shish, the judge said the accused persons were influential in their areas and the militants continued their brutalities following direct and indirect patronisation of these two persons.
Referring to several verses of the holy Quran and Hadith, the judge said Islam is a moderate religion and it does not support any such torture and force on people to abide by the religion.
Executed JMB operations commander Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai had said in his statement that Shish Muhammad used to visit him and executed JMB chief Abdur Rahman in Bagmara during their "anti-outlaw" operations.
Bangla Bhai and his men also visited Shish Muhammad's houses at Tanore in Godagari upazila and Upashahar Housing Estate in Rajshahi city and Shish, also chairman of Mundumala municipality, gave the militants money, the statement said.
REACTIONS AT COURT
Hearing the judgment, JMB's Bagmara adviser Lutfar started shouting, "I do not honour the verdict...it is partial."
Other accused present in the dock and their relatives in and outside the court burst into tears.
"My husband is Fazlu's [the plaintiff] cousin and he was implicated in the case out of jealousy and rivalry over land. He was never linked with militants," Kajal Rekha, wife of convict Nazrul, said.
Public Prosecutor Ekramul Haque said, "The JMB came into being, flourished and continued criminal activities with the finance and assistance of barrister Aminul Islam, Shish Muhammad other ruling party men of the BNP-Jamaat alliance. So, the judgment is appropriate."
Additional PP Nurul Islam said, "Minister Aminul was responsible for the district and its law and order. He came to learn about the rise and criminal activities of the JMB through various newspaper and media reports. But, he did not take any action against the criminals.
"Aminul's silence [about the militants' activities] corroborated the depositions of witnesses and it is proved that he was one of the abettors and conspirators," he said, adding, "Aminul and other politicians directly and indirectly financed and patronised the JMB and they instigated the militants to collect tolls for their smooth operation."
The additional PP said four prosecution witnesses told the court that they saw the militants talking with former minister Aminul over mobile phone and that the militants boasted before them of having links with the minister and his men.
Lawyers Hamidul Haque, Mansur Rahman, Ankur Sen and Abul Kalam moved for the defence. They said the case was false and filed with an ulterior motive to harass personal and political rivals taking advantage of the changed political atmosphere.
They said the prosecution side did not come up with enough witnesses and evidence. Moreover, they could not show any material evidence against the accused persons.
With nine bolts and a stainless-steel rod inside his legs and all fingers broken and permanently bent, Fazlur Rahman still suffers the pain but the justice he received yesterday gave him some consolation.