BNP’s joint secretary general Habib Un Nabi Khan wakes up and rushes to court every weekday morning. This has become a routine over the past three months. There are 450 cases against him. He attends hearings for four to five cases every day.
It is almost the same routine for BNP’s senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, Syed Moazzem Hossain (Alal), and BNP chairperson’s special assistant Shamsur Rahman (Shimul Biswas). Rizvi has 180 cases against him. Alal has 250 and Shimul Biswas 174.
Speaking to several leaders who run the cases of the BNP leaders, it was learnt that almost all of the over a hundred leaders and activists who face such cases, wake up at break of day to rush to court. Over a hundred central leaders of BNP, Jubo Dal, Swecchashebok Dal and Chhatra Dal face this predicament.
BNP leaders say that as the government’s term draws to a close, court proceedings against the opposition leaders have gained momentum and even the leaders already behind bars are being brought to the court almost every day. One such leader is Dhaka city north Jubo Dal former president and candidate for the Dhaka-18 by-election SM Jahangir Hossain. He faces 317 cases. Over the past two months, almost every day he has been taken from the Kasempur jail and brought to court. His wife Razia Sultana said that he has fallen ill, being transported every day back and forth in the prison van. It is the same in the case of former Jubo Dal president Saiful Alam (Nirob). There are over 350 cases against him too.
A review of the cases at Dhaka courts reveal that already 44 leaders and activists of BNP and its associate organisations have been jailed in six cases. Trials of another 200 cases are proceeding speedily. At least 30 of these cases are at the final stages of trial. Deposition of witnesses is being taken in 170 cases. These cases involve important leaders from the centre down to the thana and ward levels.
The lawyers say that the cases that are proceeding at a fast pace include those filed on charges of various incidents of sabotage and setting vehicles on fire before and after the 5 January 2014 election. Large numbers of cases were also filed against BNP leaders before the 2018 national election. The trials of many of these cases, generally referred to as ‘fictitious cases’, are now under trial.
BNP leaders feel that the government is coming up with this deluge of cases with the forthcoming election in sight and to thwart the opposition movement. Central leaders and leaders at the thana and ward level who are important to the opposition movement and election, are being targeted. The government has revived the old cases against them and ensuring that they are convicted.
Law minister Anisul Huq, speaking to Prothom Alo, has said, “I have instructed the prosecution to take initiative to first settle the old cases. The government will take all initiative to settle that old cases. I have not given any separate directives regarding the settlement of BNP leaders’ cases in particular.”
According to the latest update of BNP’s case information and records cell, from 2009 till 25 July this year, 138,071 cases have been filed against leaders and activists of BNP and its affiliated organisations. The cases against these accused persons total over 4 million. BNP claims that there are 17,583 cases lodged in 50 police stations of Dhaka city.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, BNP’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said that ever since the government took over power, it has used the state machinery in a planned manner to file thousands of fictitious cases against BNP leaders and activists. It is adamant to stage a so-called election as in 2014 and 2018 and so is using the court to convict BNP leaders and workers.
All central leaders face cases
All top level leaders of BNP, including its chairperson and secretary general, are accused in various cases. The party’s chairpersons Khaleda Zia and acting chairman Tarique Rahman are already convicted.
There are 98 cases against the party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. He ironically stated at an event in Dhaka on 14 September, “There are 98 cases against me -- two more and it will hit a century.”
Among the standing committee members, the cases against Khandakar Musharraf Hossain and Mirza Abbas are at the last stages. Hearing of witnesses in the case against Mirza Abbas, accused of accumulating wealth outside of known sources, is in the final stages at Dhaka Special Judge Court-6. Witness deposition in the case under the money laundering prevention act against Khandakar Musharraf is over.
Once the arguments are over, the case will be ready for verdict. This case is in Dhaka’s Special Judge Court-1. The ACC public prosecutor Mir Ahmed Ali Salam told Prothom Alo, “There has been a delay to settling the case as Khandakar Musharraf had fallen ill and gone abroad. He is back now. Hopefully the case will be settled soon.”
Another standing committee member Selima Rahman faces 4 cases. Recently charges have been drawn up in connection to a bus being set on fire. An ACC case against Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury is underway.
The ACC case against the party’s vice chairman Abdullah Al Noman is at the final stage. Seven of their eight witnesses in this case under Dhaka’s divisional special judge court, have given their deposition.
The date to pass the verdict in the case on charges of sabotage, against BNP vice chairman Md Shahjahan, the chairperson’s advisor Habibur Rahman and the Oikya Front candidate (under the sheaf of paddy symbol) in the 2018 election Ahsan Habib, has been fixed for 27 September.
Hearing of the witnesses in 25 cases against Khaleda Zia’s special assistant Shimul Biswas is proceeding speedily. He has to appear in court almost every day. He was last seen going to court even on 7 September and 17 September. Witness deposition in the give cases against BNP joint secretary general Khairul Kabir is at the last stages. There are 50 cases against organising secretary (Rajshahi) Ruhul Kuddus Talukdar and witness deposition in 10 is in the final stages.
There are 80 cases against Dhaka city south BNP convenor Abdus Salam and witness statements have been taken in 10. Acting member secretary of the same committee Tanveer Ahmed faces 127 cases. His lawyer Abdur Razzak told Prothom Alo witness deposition is underway in at least 50 of these cases. There are around 150 cases against Tanveer’s father, former member of parliament Salahuddin Ahmed. Of these, witnesses are being heard in 60. Both of them are brought to court from jail regularly.
Sources say that from 2013 till 2015, the state has drawn up over 200 cases in various charges including setting fire to buses and exploding crude bombs in Dhaka. Witnesses in these cases are being brought to give their statements regularly in order to settle the cases speedily.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and BNP vice chairman Zainul Abedin said, “In the 50 years of my legal profession I have never seen any government lodging 300 to 400 cases against a political leader.” He alleged that the government is using the court to disqualify BNP leaders from contesting in the election. The deposition of witnesses is even being taken after dark in recent times.
Attorney general AM Amin Uddin, however, told Prothom Alo, “What the BNP leaders are saying is not true. The state prosecution is bringing forward witnesses in order to settle cases that have been pending for a few years. The state prosecution isn’t working to settle any cases against BNP leaders.”
44 leaders sentenced
Over the last 8 months, 44 leaders and activists of BNP and its associated bodies have been passed down sentences in six cases in various courts of Dhaka. They are basically important leaders in Dhaka city, thana and wards. The court had passed a prison sentence on three BNP leaders including Dhaka city Jubo Dal (North) convener Sharif Uddin (Jewel).
In a case of 10 years ago regarding crude bomb explosions and sabotage, the court on 19 June passed a two year prison sentence against seven BNP men including former ward councilor Hamidur Rahman.
Another seven BNP men were given jail sentences on 3 April on charges setting fire to buses in Mugda 10 years ago.
On 7 August the Dhaka CMM court passed prison sentence against 21 persons including organising secretary Ishaq Sarkar. The case was filed on charges of damaging vehicles in Kotwali police station area in 2013. On 17 August the Dhaka CMM court passed prison sentence against five persons including journalist Shafiqur Rehman, Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman, and JSS vice president Mohammad Ullah, accusing them to plotting to abduct and kill Sajib Wazed Joy. The latest conviction has been on 18 August in a case filed with Ramna police station against a BNP activist Abdul Kalam Azad.
In the meantime, two standing committee members Rafiqul Islam Miah and Iqbal Hasan Mahmud as Dhaka city North BNP convenor Amanullah Aman have already been convicted. An arrest warrant has been issued against Iqbal Hossain Mahmud recently.
Tarique Rahman was first convicted 7 years ago in a money laundering case. And during his stay abroad, he was sentenced to 9 years imprisonment on 2 August in a corruption case. His wife was convicted to three years imprisonment in the same case. The case was settled within just a matter of 16 working days.
And before the 2018 election, the party chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia was convicted by the court in two cases. Three more cases against her are under trial.
Days spent in court
To the leaders and activists who face over 100 cases, the court has almost become a second home. One such person on BNP joint secretary general Habib Un Nabi Khan. There are over 450 cases against him. His lawyer Zakir Hossain told Prothom Alo that witness deposition in 50 cases is on. If he does not appear in court, his bail will be cancelled.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Habib Un Nabi Khan said, “Other than Friday and Saturday, I wake up in the morning and come to court every single say. Sometimes I even have my breakfast at the court premises.” He says for the past three months he has spent the entire day, from 9:00 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon in the metropolitan court. He also has to go to the Dhaka CMM court in another case. “The court has become my address now,” he said.
From case information and speaking to lawyers running the cases for BNP leaders, it was learnt that those who have over 50 cases against them, have a hearing date almost every day. Previous in such cases, the hearing date was fixed after every one or two months. Now the hearing in each case is held every seven to 15 days. The BNP lawyers estimate that around over 500 BNP leaders and activists have to appear in court in Dhaka every day.
A look at the three-month list of case reveals that hearing dates in 53 cases against Aman Ullah were fixed for August alone. The Dhaka courts had on average two hearings a day in his cases.
However, public prosecutor of Dhaka metropolitan judge court Abdullah Abu told Prothom Alo, “A list has been drawn up of the cases that have been pending for year after year. We are bringing witnesses to the court to hurriedly settle these cases. The state prosecution is not targeting BNP leaders.”
Last month hearings in 23 cases against BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi were fixed by the Dhaka court. He had to appear in court almost every day, said his lawyer Syed Zainul Abedin. Trial has begun on almost 20 of these cases.
Last August the hearing was fixed for 10 cases against Mirza Fakhrul Islam. His legal counselor Mesbah said that every month the BNP secretary general has to turn up at court several times. The court has drawn up charges in over 15 of the cases against him. On 4 September trial of the cases filed in Paltan police station began against Mirza Fakhrul, Ruhul Kabir and Habib Un Nabi Khan.
According to the lawyers running these cases, in a similar manner almost every working day the leaders having to appear in court are BNP’s volunteer affairs secretary Mir Sharfat Ali (250 cases), Jubo Dal president Sultan Salah Uddin (315 cases), Swecchhashebok Dal president AM Jilani (170 cases), general secretary Rajib Ahsan (146 cases), Akramul Hasan (146 cases), Habibur Rashid (103 cases), Bazlul Karim Chowdhury (95 cases), Mamun Hasan (200 cases), assistant organizing secretary Shahidul Islam Babul (110) cases, assistant secretary mass education affairs Anisur Rahman Talukdar (211) cases and Chhatra Dal’s Saif Mohammad (106 cases).
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that BNP had been claiming that their people are being removed from the political field by means of these criminal cases. Their words are proving to be true. The BNP leaders are having to appear in court, some are being convicted. He said, dire consequences emerge if the criminal justice system is used as a political tool.-Prothom Alo