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Tuesday, January 22, 2008
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4 DU teachers, 11 students acquitted

4 convicted students pardoned by president; 10 RU students freed following clemency too; case withdrawal process starts; DU detainees' release hinges on today's verdict

The four Dhaka University teachers being taken back to jail from a Dhaka court yesterday after they were acquitted in a case. Judgment in another case filed against them is to be delivered today.Photo: STAR

A Dhaka court yesterday acquitted four Dhaka University (DU) teachers and 11 students of violating Emergency Power Rules (EPR) in one of the two cases filed against them in connection with last August's campus unrest.

In a late afternoon development yesterday a presidential order pardoned four other absconding DU students, who had been convicted in connection with the same case by the same court earlier in the day.

The same presidential order also pardoned 10 Rajshahi University (RU) students and an employee of the institution, who had been convicted last December of torching a Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) vehicle during the campus violence there triggered by the DU incidents. All imprisoned RU people were freed last evening following the presidential pardon.

In another development into the night, the government decided to withdraw another case against yet unknown persons in connection with assaulting police and an army camp that had been on the DU campus at the time of the violence. It also decided to drop the names of 18 persons from the charge sheet in another case in connection with torching of an army vehicle in the capital during the violence, while deciding to scrap another case in connection with setting fire to RU vice-chancellor's residence during the incidents on that campus, according to government handouts sent to the media last night.

Meanwhile, the DU vice-chancellor told The Daily Star last night that the government directed the authorities to submit the final report in yet another case in connection with the torching of the army vehicle in the capital, meaning that case is also likely to be thrown out.

Despite yesterday's acquittals, detained DU teachers Prof Sadrul Amin, Prof Anwar Hossain, Prof Harun-or-Rashid, Prof Neem Chandra Bhowmik, and detained student Moniruzzaman Sardar were not released, as the verdict in the other case filed against them, for the same offence, is scheduled to be delivered today.

All eyes are now set on today's verdict, watching whether the DU teachers and students are acquitted or convicted in the second case for violating EPR, following their acquittal and pardon on the same charges in the other case.

The long awaited verdict yesterday morning could not bring any immediate resolution of the ongoing crisis on the campus due to the morning conviction of the absconding students.

On hearing the verdict, family members of the acquitted four teachers said the verdict proved that the detained teachers had done nothing wrong, but they could not be fully happy because of the four absconding students' conviction.

Soon after the news reached the campus in the morning, DU students under the banner of Students against Repression brought out a march categorically rejecting the verdict and chanting slogans demanding acquittal of all, while terming the verdict 'a farce'.

The court in the morning sentenced each of the four absconding students to two years of imprisonment in the case filed with Shahbag police station on August 23. It also fined the convicted students --- Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) DU Unit President Hasan Mamun, its General Secretary Saiful Islam Feroz, its activist Kamrul Islam Kochi, and former Chhatra Union leader Aziz Hasan --- TK1000 each, in default of which each of them was to suffer one more month in jail.

Sensing probable deterioration of law and order on the campus centring the verdict, a large number of police were deployed at every entry point.

The way the government had handled the cases against the RU teachers and students, raised doubts about the release of DU teachers and students, prompting the DU community to launch agitation demanding unconditional release of their detained peers.

In a case in connection with violating EPR, a Rajshahi court on December 4 sentenced four RU teachers to two years rigorous imprisonment, although it had not found sufficient evidence for the conviction, triggering a huge public outcry.

In response to the rising public demand, the caretaker government later released the four RU teachers following a presidential pardon.

Before their release the government however said the detained teachers had been pardoned by President Iajuddin Ahmed following petitions from the detainees' families, a claim the freed teachers later rebutted outright.

DU Teachers' Association (Duta) General Secretary Prof Anwar, and Social Science Faculty Dean Rashid were detained by the army-led joint forces at midnight of August 24, while Duta Chief Prof Sadrul and Physics Department Chairman Bhowmik surrendered to the court on September 16 and September 18 respectively, following a court's arrest warrant against them.

Asked about the release of the freshly acquitted DU teachers and the student, Education Adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman yesterday said they will be released after today's court verdict.

On August 20, a violent student protest broke out on DU campus following a brawl between an army man and a student during a soccer match on the university playground. The protest later spread to other educational institutions in the city and elsewhere across the country, continuing for a few days resulting in an imposition of a curfew and shutting down of all educational institutions in all major cities.

Following the imposition of the curfew, the military backed administration launched a crackdown on teachers and students detaining some of them and filing cases against the teachers and students of DU and RU.

In the drive, three teachers of RU were detained by the joint forces while five other teachers surrendered to the court following issuance of arrest warrants against them.

PRONOUNCEMENT OF 3DU CASE VERDICT
Metropolitan Magistrate Habibur Rahman Siddiqui took his seat at 10:30am and declared the verdict in presence of the four detained teachers and the student, in a packed courtroom.

The court read out the last portion of the verdict in three minutes and adjourned the court proceedings for 20 minutes.

DU students who were acquitted are Shamsunnahar Hall Unit JCD Acting President Tanjeen Chowdhury Lili, Rokeya Hall Unit JCD President Shahinoor Nargis, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) Central Committee Vice-president Aparna Rani Pal, Rifat Hossain Jiku, Nazrul Islam Russell, Shamsul Kabir Rahat, Mitul, Rokonuzzaman, Kamruzzaman, and Anwar Hossain.

Earlier, the prosecution and the defence completed their arguments and the court recorded statements of 12 prosecution witnesses including the complainant and investigation officer (IO) of the case.

The case was filed against 5,000 to 6,000 unnamed DU students and teachers along with outsiders in connection with the incident that took place at Teacher-student Centre (TSC), at Institute of Fine Arts, and in Shahbagh area in the capital. Police however pressed charges against only four DU teachers and 15 students on September 9.

The other case against the same teachers and students was filed with the same police station in connection with the violent incidents that had taken place at Nilkhet Police Box and several other places on the campus.

The verdict in that case is scheduled to be delivered today.

In a third case in connection with torching of an army vehicle at Shahbagh intersection in the capital during the DU violence, police on January 7 pressed charges against 25 people comprising DU students and some outsiders, 18 of whom were absolved last night by the government.

A fourth case filed with the same police station in connection with assaulting an army personnel at Shahbagh is currently under investigation, the final report in which was sought by the government last night in an effort to scrap it.

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