Closure of sorts
The judgment in the August 2004 grenade attack case, in which 19 accused were sentenced to death and 19 to life imprisonment, reveals the dark side of Bangladesh’s politics and leaves many of the survivors unhappy.
Awami League—including the general secretary of the party’s women’s wing, Ivy Rahman, wife of the late President Zillur Rahman)—were killed and more than 300 people were badly injured. The trial proceedings lasted 1,754 days. On the fateful day, the Awami League had organised an anti-terrorism rally in Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Avenue. As Sheikh Hasina got on to the truck that was being used as a podium to deliver her speech, grenades rained down from surrounding buildings. Sheikh Hasina, then the opposition leader, narrowly escaped death.
“The attack was not just an attack, it was an attempt to eliminate the opposition from politics,” the court observed. The judge linked the deadly attack to the conspiracy that led to the assassinations in 1975 of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, and four national independence leaders.
The verdict, in which 19 people were sentenced to death and 19 more to life imprisonment, revealed some dark features of the country’s politics. To carry out this attack, those in power grossly misused the state machinery; the powerful spy agencies, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and the National Security Intelligence (NSI); and the police to annihilate the opposition leadership. The conviction of once-influential politicians, former top officials of police, national intelligence agencies and militants of the Harkat-ul-jehad-al-islami (HUJI) exposed the abuse of state machinery to not only carry out the attack but also mislead the investigators.
The then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman Babar; her Deputy Minister for Education, Abdus Salam Pintu; the then Director of the DGFI, Brig. Gen. Rezzaqul Haider; the then Director General of the NSI, Brig. Gen. (retd) Abdur Rahim; and 15 others were found guilty on charges of killing through common intention, planning and criminal conspiracy. They all got death sentences. They were also handed the death penalty in the charges brought against them under the Explosive Substances Act.