Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Awami League creating a 'terror raj'?

President of Bangladesh, Zillur Rahman, has pardoned a man who was sentenced to death for committing one murder and life-term for two other killings. He has granted mercy to AHM Biplob, a son of ruling party leader Abu Taher of Laxmipur and a death row inmate in much-talked-about Nurul Islam murder case.
The widow of murdered lawyer Nurul Islam--the best known of the murder victims--has now put a question to the President: "Has he not now lost the moral right to demand punishment of those who killed his wife Ivy Rahman?" Mrs. Islam has further said, "President Zillur Rahman should now stop all proceedings of the Ivy Rahman murder case and announce that he has pardoned her killers."
The man who has received the presidential pardon and is now expecting to step out of prison as a free man is H. M. Biplab, son of ruling Awami League (AL) leader and Chairman of Luxmipur Municipality, Abu Taher. Biplab was convicted of kidnapping and then murdering Advocate Nurul Islam in that town on September 18th of 2000. He was tried in absentia by a speedy trial court.
The daily Samakal said this death sentence was confirmed by the High Court Division and Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Biplab remained a fugitive from law. He surrendered to court and went to prison a few months ago while his father submitted mercy petition to the President.
A brother of Biplab has told the Kaler Kantha newspaper that he has also been pardoned on the charge of murdering a Chhatra League leader, Kamal, and the process of reprieve in a third murder case, that of killing an Islami Chhatra Shibir leader Mohsin. The papers of this prayer of pardon are now at the Prime Minister's office. The President, it seems, is taking the recommendation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in these cases.
Rashida's questions
Rashida Islam, wife of murdered lawyer and popular BNP leader at Luxmipur, has also addressed a remark at Sheikh Hasina. She told the Prime Minister, "I urge you to ensure the severest punishment to the murderer . Just as you have given the topmost priority to the trial of your father's killers, my children also want to see that their father's killers are punished. If that is not done then Allah's judgment will visit those who protect their father's killers."
Rashida Islam left Luxmipur shortly after her husband was murdered and has been living in Dhaka since then. She told newsmen that she is frightened once again. Rashida Islam recalls her murdered husband's body was never found as it was cut into pieces and dropped into the river Meghna by the criminals.
It may be mentioned here that Ivy Rahman, Awami League leader and President Zillur Rahman's wife, was killed in the terrible grenade attack at an Awami League rally at the capital's centre on August 21, 2004, while Sheikh Hasina was addressing it. After a prolonged investigation police has recently charged BNP leader, Khaleda Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman, two former ministers, and several Islamist extremists for plotting the attack and sheltering the attackers.
Pro-BNP lawyers say that the investigation is flawed. BNP is staging protest against the charge. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founding president of Bangladesh, his wife, three sons and two daughters-in-law were killed on August 15, 1975, in a coup led by a number of army officers. Sheikh Hasina was successful in arresting several of the military coup-makers when she became elected prime minister in 1996 and in holding their trial.
Appeal for justice
Five of them were executed by hanging in 2010. Her government is trying hard to get at least half a dozen more fugitives extradited from other countries to face execution. This is among her government's top most priorities. Mrs. Rashida Islam has referred to these cases while appealing for justice in the case of the murders of her husband.
Senior lawyers Barrister Rafiqul Huq and Khandker Mahbub Hossain have warned, while the constitution gives the President the power to pardon or commute any sentence it is now being misused.
It should be mentioned here that President Ziaur Rahman, President Ershad and President Iajuddin Ahmed each had also pardoned at least one murder-convict each.
20 death row convicts freed
Thus the number of persons getting presidential pardon, bending the rules in case of the son of one top Awami League leader, by the hands of President Zillur Rahman has been far greater.
On September 7, 2010 President granted clemency to 20 death row inmates under a presidential pardon, as they awaited execution for murdering a local leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 2004. He is acting upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister and the Law Minister, say Supreme Court lawyers.
At the same time a committee headed by the Minister of State for Law has withdrawn several thousands criminal cares against Awami League leaders on the ground that these cases were filed on political consideration. Beneficiaries of this special action by the Sheikh Hasina government include a number of persons charged for murder.
Opposition BNP says the Awami League government is setting free such dangerous people in order to create a 'terror raj' with the aim of influencing voters in the next parliament election. No person belonging to BNP has been freed of any criminal charge by this review committee.