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     Volume 4 Issue 9 | August 20, 2004 |

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News Notes

Justice Delayed
Another death anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman passed without any progress in the long-stalled case of his murder. The appeal by the 12 accused who received death sentence are yet to be heard. Three years have elapsed since the day the sentence was read out in the Trial Court. The case still remains pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, which is short of one justice for forming a three-member division bench required to hear the leave to appeal petition. The situation can be corrected if the government appoints a judge to the Appellate Division on ad-hoc basis. However, possibility of such a move by the present government is almost nil. It is only after the present chief justice will retire paving the way for a new judge to be appointed in the Appellate Division that the case will resume. For now, the execution of the verdict on the killers of Bangabandhu and his family is delayed till March 2007, the time when the appointment of the present justice expires. It is the 14th amendment that enhanced the retirement age of the High Court judges by two years sealing the fate of the case for next three years.
First the High Court spared three of the fifteen accused and now the accused in death rows are trying to stall the process. Four of the accused have been living in the condemn cell since their sentencing. And if the hearing is deferred till 2007, the accused will complete 10 years in there, which will further complicate the judicial process. Khan Saifur Rahman, the counsel for defense, recently said to a newsman that after spending five years in condemn cell the accused may plead for a number of privileges.

Professor Humayun Azad Passes Away
Writer and Professor of Bangla at Dhaka University, Humayun Azad, passed away in Munich last week. Azad had gone to the German city on August 8 to fulfil a long-cherished dream -- to research on romantic German writer Heinrich Heine. Three days later, after Azad failed to meet an appointment with a PEN (International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists) member, he was later found dead in his apartment. The cause of death has so far been determined as natural, according to German embassy officials, though more tests of stomach contents, etc, for poisons, toxins and alcohol are being done. Azad's death comes roughly six months after a deadly machete attack on him by unidentified assailants outside the Bangla Academy during the Ekushey Book Fair. Azad, as well as his family blamed the attack on Islamic fundamentalists. Receiving news of his death two days after he actually died, his family, suspecting foul play, have demanded an international investigation. On August 15 the Charge d' Affair to the German embassy in Dhaka paid an official visit to prof Azad's home to pay his condolence to the bereaved family. He also reiterated the fact that Azad died of a cardiac arrest. As per his last wish, Azad's body will be donated to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Attack on Ahmadiyyas Continues
There is no letting up of the effort by the Islamist extremists to marginalize the minorities. Recently their hatred was directed against the Ahmadiyys of Khulna. The Islamist bigots in a frenzy of Ahmadiyya bashing were threatening to destroy the Nirala Ahmadiyya Mosque Complex of the city. On August 12, the supporters of International Khateme Nabuwat Movement (IKNMB) stood face-to-face with the police cordon. The situation turned most volatile after Shaikul Hadith Allama Moulana Azizul Huq, chairman of the ruling alliance partner Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ), issued an ultimatum that any more delay in declaring Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims would simply invite fall of the coalition government. Speaking as the chief guest at a rally of over 30,000 people, Huq said, "The faithful Muslims will crush all Ahmadiyya complexes in the country if adherents of Ahmadiyya Jamaat are not officially declared non-Muslims.
Fortunately, this time around, the government response to the threat was quick, and Anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and 10 platoons of riot police were deployed to cordoned off the mosque area. And, security was beefed up in the areas where the local chapter of IKNMB organised the rallies after juma prayers.
Although many newspapers reported that a major debacle had been averted, it was not until the zealots put up a sign that declared the mosque a "Kadiany (Ahmadiyya) prayer house" that the crowed dispersed. And, this is not the first event in which Ahmadiyya mosques are branded as such. The most interesting feature of this renaming spree is that the law enforcement agencies are helping the religious fanatics in their effort.

Another Unflattering Rating
Bangladesh now has another rating from the US. This time it is being tagged as one of the worst performers in combating human trafficking. The Foreign Minister, however, has stated this is just not fair. He says that the US should upgrade Bangladesh to a higher tier as the country has recently taken proactive measures against human trafficking. A US team has arrived in Dhaka to reassess Bangladesh's downgrading to tier 3 from tier 2. In May the US embassy in Dhaka gave a six-step work plan for Bangladesh to follow in response to the "Human Trafficking in Persons Report 2004". The Foreign Minister says that the government has taken stringent measures 38 measures after the report was submitted. "These include", says the Minister stronger implementation of existing anti-human trafficking laws, "greater conviction of traffickers and more rigorous border screening measures".
Meanwhile, members of "Bangladesh Citizens Alliance Against Trafficking" (BCAAT) at a rally have said that the US report is motivated. They believe that the real reason for this downgrading from tier 2 to tier 3 in the worst performing category, was to pressurise Bangladesh to deploy its troops to Iraq, something Bangladesh has been able to avoid so far.
BCAAT and SUPRO (Sushanoer Jonno Procharavijan) held a rally against the move. Farida Akhter, convenor of BCAAT declared that the US had no authority to interfere in the internal affairs of Bangladesh. She also pointed out that the poor are not criminals but victims of trafficking and that poverty was the main reason behind human trafficking. She added that US sanctions (which have been hinted at) will not reduce trafficking in Bangladesh. Other countries sharing the unflattering title of being in Tier 3 include Sudan, Sierra Leone, North Korea and Cuba.

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