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     Volume 4 Issue 25 | December 17, 2004 |

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News Notes

Thousand Kilometre long Human Wall
The anti government movement that got somewhat damp in the recent months appears to have acquired some heat last week when the opposition parties organised arguably the longest human wall in history. The fourteen party opposition alliance led by Awami League organised an almost 1,000 kms human wall connecting the two furthest corners of the country, Teknaf and Tetulia on December 11 protesting the misrule of the BNP government. The government though pretended not to be bothered used the state apparatus to foil the planned programme. The government, in the name of ensuring law and order, unleashed the much-feared RAB along with the entire police force. Hundreds of opposition activists were put behind the bar; and goons allegedly aligned with the ruling parties, barred and attacked people who were participating in the human wall. RAB, whose armoury has recently been enriched with helicopters, patrolled the sky round the clock. In the end, however, the programme ended reasonably peacefully. The opposition leaders termed it "a stunning success" and "a sure expression of the people's no confidence in the government", while the ruling parties, following the political tradition of the country, described the human wall programme as an absolute failure. Whatever the truth is, many believe that instead of calling hartals every now and then, which have anyway lost much of its effectiveness and appeal, opposition parties should organise such peaceful programmes.

Waiting for Justice for 16 Years
A 34-year-old woman is still on the run for the last 16 years, fleeing from three men who had kidnapped and raped her when she was 18. While still in hiding the woman told Anwar Ali of the Daily Star that in April 1988 three men kidnapped her from her house in a village in Tanore Upazilla. The three accused are a current Upazilla Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) vice president and the chairman of Chanduria union parishad and two of his accomplices. The three men, says the woman, kidnapped her and took her to an unknown place and raped her. Local people found her unconscious and took her to the then Chanduria UP Chairman for protection. But he too raped her.
The woman's uncle, who had previously taken bribes from the first three rapists before they carried out the crime, lodged a case against a man accusing him of the rape. But this was refuted by the woman at a special tribunal in Rajshahi. She told the judge that the person accused was not the rapist but it was the four men mentioned.
In January 1989 the tribunal recorded a "no-confidence" petition and ordered further investigation into the incident. In July a sub-inspector of Tanore, in a supplementary charge sheet, pressed charges against the four BNP men.
The four men petitioned the high-court division bench of the Supreme Court challenging the Rajshahi Tribunal decision to order a fresh investigation. But a court order stated that there was no reason for a fresh investigation to be scrapped and the trial should continue. Strangely, however, the High Court order went missing in 1995. The woman has sought another copy of the court order and this has been received recently at the District Commissioner's office.

Courting Discontentment
Newspapers Face Contempt of court
Two daily newspapers are facing charges of contempt for running reports on an additional High Court judge's alleged result tampering. In the hearing of the case against editors, publishers and reporters of the Daily Prothom Alo and Bhorer Kakoj the counsels asserted that the press had rightly done its duty to "disinfect" the judiciary by bringing the incident to light. Dr Kamal Hossain, the counsel for Daily Prothom Alo, said that on December 12. He went on to add, "While carrying out its duty to inform people, the newspaper published the report for the public good and all facts are there to support it."
Mohammad Faiz, father of the Additional Judge, Justice Faisal Mahmud, filed the contempt petition on November 8 accusing the Prothom Alo, publisher Mahfuz Anam, Editor Matiur Rahman, Reporters Ekramul Haq Bulbul and Masud Milad and publisher of Bhorer Kakoj, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Editor Abed Khan and reporter Shamaresh Baidyo of acting in contempt against the judiciary.
However, Kamal Hossain stressed the fact that there was nothing in the reports that was in contempt of the judiciary. The two dailies carried the report after an inquiry committee of Chittagong University unearthed the certificate tampering. While making his submission, Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud, counsel for Bhorer Kakoj editor and reporters, said, "The report raised a concern at the selection of a wrong person for guarding the constitution." Rokan pointed out that the report did not deal with the judiciary, the Supreme Court, other judges and even judicial activities of the Additional Judge Faizee. He added that it dealt with irregularities made in the results of 111 students including Faizee.
The court on December 12 exempted the respondents from personal appearance at court and adjourned the hearing until January 9.

To Publish or not to Publish
The High Court issued another rule of contempt on the editors, publishers and reporters of four national dailies for publishing a story on judge's alleged roadside allegation. Daily Star, New Age, Bhorer Kakoj and Prothom Alo published the report on November 2.
The Supreme Court on December 5 issued a suo moto rule on the editors, publishers and reporters. The notice said, "The attention of the Chief Justice was drawn to the news item," and that the Gulshan Police station "reported that no such Additional Judge of the High Court Division was detained by the police, nor has anyone by that name been taken to the Police Station" for public nuisance.
The court asked the respondents to show cause "as why they should not be proceeded against for contempt of this Court."

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