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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 53
January 26, 2008

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Human Rights Advocacy
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Law week

Illegally set up factories may be legalised
The government is mulling the legalisation of factories set up illegally in the Bhawal National Park, but has decided not to allow any new factories on the protected forest. The director general of the Department of Environment (DoE) has been asked to look into specific and stringent regulations for the factories to continue operating in the 2,572-acre core area of the nature reserve, said the Chief Adviser's Press Secretary Syed Fahim Munaim. after the meeting of the council of advisers. The meeting chaired by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed decided that the government would consider giving clearance certificates to the factories and other structures there if they meet the conditions set in the new regulations. As of 2006, the DoE handed out such certificates to 16 factories. New conditions would include eco-friendly provisions in the factories such as effluent treatment plants and limit of their size and operations, Fahim said. The press secretary said that not many people had followed the existing rules on constructing structures in the protected area, and that's why the government would also look into better enforcement of the rules. --The Daily Star, January 22.

BDR hands BSF list of 1,626 criminals hiding in India
Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) has handed Border Security Force (BSF) a list of 1,626 Bangladeshi criminals hiding in India as a three-day high-level meeting between the two border forces concluded in Bogra. In addition, BSF agreed not to open fire on innocent Bangladeshi citizens, except in self-defence, along the border areas during daytime. At a post-meeting joint press conference, both sides said they had reached consensus on all the issues on the agenda regarding border problems and interests of both nations during the deputy director general level meeting. BDR Deputy Director General Brig Gen MA Bari led the 12-member Bangladesh team in the meeting while the 18-member Indian delegation was led by Inspector General of BSF North Bengal Frontier RA Tiwari. Asked if India provided any specific information in support of its allegations that Bangladesh harbours Indian separatists and terrorists, Brig Gen MA Bari replied in the negative. He, however, said that they would examine whatever information the BSF has given. Earlier at a BDR-BSF director-general level meeting, India had given Bangladesh a list of 1,000 Indian criminals hiding in Bangladesh, IG RA Tiwari said. Both sides also agreed to solve the issues of push-back and push-in on the basis of dialogue if those arise again. Brig Gen MA Bari said that the nationals of both the countries detained by BDR and BSF would be released on humanitarian grounds as per the laws of the respective countries. --The Daily Star, January 23.

Verdicts were based on poor evidence
The verdicts sentencing three teachers and four students of Dhaka University (DU) in two cases for violating Emergency Power Rules (EPR) were based on "poor" evidence as most witnesses did not name the students and teachers, observed renowned jurists. The jurists said going through the documents of 28 prosecution witnesses of the two cases they found that only two named the convicted students and teachers. Rest of the witnesses did not corroborate the oral evidence of the two witnesses given before the courts. Reviewing the facts, noted jurist Shahdeen Malik said such weak prosecution evidence in criminal cases invariably leads to acquittal. Preliminary perusal of the evidence could not but evoke surprise about the conviction, he said. "It seems the evidence was not sufficient for finding of guilt and imprisonment," Malik told The Daily Star. Justice Ghulam Rabbani, a former judge of the Appellate Division of Supreme Court, termed the criminal cases against the DU teachers and students mysterious. "The scenario regarding the criminal cases against the teachers and students of Rajshahi University and Dhaka University appear to be mysterious and cannot be equated with the normal process of law," Rabbani told The Daily Star. "I may be incorrect but the suspicion, which looms in my mind as a person who was in the bar for 32 years and in the bench for 10 years, is dangerous and must be removed by the persons concerned in the scenario," he added. Advocate Masud Ahmed Talukder, an expert on criminal cases, said, "There was no evidence in the two cases to convict any teacher or student." In December, a Rajshahi court convicted four Rajshahi University (RU) teachers to two years' imprisonment for violating the EPR by brining out a silent procession during unrest on the campus in August last year. The verdict triggered strong criticism as many said it was also based on poor evidence. --The Daily Star, January 24.

SC to hear govt petition against HC order
The Supreme Court will hear today government petition seeking stay on the High Court order that halted further proceedings of trial of detained former prime minister Sheikh Hasina in a Tk 3-crore extortion case. Meanwhile, the rule-hearing on a writ petition challenging the legality of placing the extortion case under Emergency Power Rules (EPR) began in a High Court division bench. Barrister Shafique Ahmed, a counsel for the Awami League president, put forward his arguments before a two-judge bench, comprising Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman and Justice Shahidul Islam. The hearing remained inconclusive. Earlier, the HC bench turned down Additional Attorney General Mansur Habib's time prayer for preparation for the legal battle from government side. --The Daily Star, January 24.

Nizami, Mojahid face murder charge
A freedom fighter (FF) filed a murder case against Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, five of their party men and three non-Bangalees for the massacre of 345 people during the Liberation War. Mohammad Amir Hossain Mollah, a wounded FF and resident of Pallabi's Duaripara, filed the case with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court, Dhaka. The complainant stated that the Jamaat men killed them in the capital's Mirpur area. The victims included 21 of his relatives, one colleague, 43 locals of Mirpur and 280 others from different areas of the country on April 24 and December 18 in 1971, he said. Meanwhile, another case was filed against Nizami, Mojaheed and seven other party men with a Dhaka court on December 17 last year for killing two FFs during the Liberation War. The case was later treated as a regular one with Keraniganj police. In the case filed, Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Emran Hossain Chowdhury recorded the complainant's statement and directed the officer-in-charge (OC) of Pallabi Police Station to register the murder case as a first information report (FIR). The court also asked the OC to investigate the case and submit report to it. Amir showed 15 people, including himself and the victims' parents and relatives as witnesses in the case. -The Daily Star, January 25.

Tk 3cr extortion allegation
Azam Chy did not file case against Hasina

Industrialist Azam J Chowdhury told the press that he did not file any case "directly" against former prime minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina. "What I did [say in the case] has been distorted and has not come to the public properly," Azam told newsmen at a local hotel following the Annual Business Conference of Prime Bank of which he is the chairman.

Azam said he filed the case against Sheikh Selim. Referring to the Tk 2.99 crore extortion, he said Selim had taken the money saying he was taking the money for the prime minister who had asked him to do so. "Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the father of the nation and his daughter Sheikh Hasina is a former prime minister...A prime minister is a respected person. Why should I file a case against her directly?" Azam said. "There has been a wrong perception about this case," he added. Azam J Chowdhury filed the case on June 13 last year, accusing Hasina and her cousin Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim of taking Tk 2.99 crore as extortion from him for awarding a 210MW power project contract. Azam is the local agent of a Russian company that won the contract. -The Daily Star, January 25.

Corresponding with the Law Desk
Please send your mails, queries, and opinions to: Law Desk, The Daily Star 19 Karwan Bazar, Dhaka-1215; telephone 8124944,8124955,fax 8125155; email: dslawdesk@yahoo.co.uk,lawdesk@thedailystar.net


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