112 BNP men sentenced in a single day
With a little over a month and a half to go until election day, 112 leaders and activists of the BNP and its front organisations were sentenced in Dhaka and Rangpur yesterday in cases filed over political violence.
They were convicted in five cases filed between May 2013 and September 2018 in connection with torching of vehicles, vandalism, assaulting police, and preventing law enforcers from discharging their duties.
The courts have been convicting BNP activists and leaders in recent days, but yesterday's figure was the highest in a single day, defence lawyers said.
At least 14 BNP leaders and activists, including Joint Secretary General Habibun Nabi Khan Sohel, Information Affairs Secretary Azizul Bari Helal, and Volunteer Affairs Secretary Mir Sarafat Ali Safu, have been sentenced to 18 months in prison in a case filed with New Market Police Station in January 2015.
Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Md Ataullah issued arrest warrants against the 14.
The magistrate also sentenced 25 BNP leaders and activists, including executive committee member Habibur Rashid Habib, Jubo Dal President Sultan Salah Uddin Tuku and its former president Saiful Alam Nirob, to two years in a case filed with Paltan Police Station in October 2017.
Nirob was in the courtroom, but the 24 others were absconding for whom the magistrate issued arrest warrants.
Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad Sheikh Sadi sentenced seven BNP leaders, including Nirob, to 30 months in a case filed with Tejgaon Police Station in May 2013.
Nirob was present during the delivery of the verdict, while the other six are on the run.
The same magistrate sentenced 62 BNP men to three and a half years in a case filed with Bangshal Police Station in September 2018.
Khandaker Akhter Hamid Khan Paban, son of late BNP secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain, is among the convicts.
The convicts, who are ward-level leaders and activists, were absent during the verdict delivery and the magistrate issued arrest warrants for 68 absconding convicts in the two cases.
"My clients did not get justice," said defence lawyer Syed Zaynul Abedin Mesbah.
He said that of the 33 prosecution witnesses, only five, including the complainant and investigation officer, testified. "But they failed to narrate the incident specifically. So, all the accused were deprived of justice," said Mesbah.
He said the prosecution failed to exhibit evidence seized from the scene.
"We will appeal," said Mesbah.
Golam Akter Iqbal was among the 62 convicted. His lawyer said Iqbal was not involved in politics.
"My client is now 72 years old and has been suffering from different ailments, including diabetes. He is now quite unable to move," his lawyer Kajol Roy told The Daily Star.
She said none of the five witnesses mentioned her client's name.
According to the case statement, a group of BNP leaders and activists illegally gathered in front of Hotel Sufia (Pvt) Ltd at Nawab Katra in the city's Bangshal area around 2:20pm on September 13, 2018. At one stage, they vandalised shops, assaulted policemen, and prevented them from performing their duties.
Later, police filed a case with Bangshal Police Station, accusing 80 BNP activists and leaders.
Dhaka Metropolitan Public Prosecutor Md Abu Abdullah said all the sentences were handed out based on evidence.
5 GET 10YRS
A Rangpur court yesterday sentenced five leaders of the BNP and Jubo Dal to 10 years in an arson case filed in May 2013. The court also fined them Tk 10,000 each.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Krishna Kanta Ray said convicts would have to serve an additional six months in jail if they did not pay the fine.
The convicts are Anisur Rahman Laku, member secretary of Rangpur BNP; Mahfuz-Un-Nabi Don, member secretary of Rangpur Metropolitan BNP; Zahir Alam Nayan, senior joint convener of Metropolitan Jubo Dal; Tareq Hasan Sohag, vice president of Rangpur Jubo Dal; and Arif Hossain, a Jubo Dal activist.
The court acquitted Rois Ahmed, former general secretary of Rangpur BNP, and Samsul Haq, general secretary of Jubo Dal, as they have passed away.
Police arrested Don on October 28 and he was in the courtroom.
According to the prosecution, the accused were arrested while they were preparing on the Rangpur Polytechnic Institute ground to torch a bus. Police claimed to have seized 56 crude bombs and various incendiary materials from their possession.
Defence lawyer Aftab Hossain said the judgment was politically motivated and that they would appeal.
[Our Dinajpur correspondent contributed to this report]