10-Truck Arms Haul in Chittagong

Babar, Nizami, 12 others sentenced to death
A decade after the country’s biggest arms haul, a special court in Chittagong on Thursday handed down death sentence and life term to former ministers Matiur Rahman Nizami and Lutfozzaman Babar, 11 senior and influential civil-military bureaucrats and Indian separatist leader Paresh Baruah in two arms and smuggling cases. The judge of Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal 1, SM Mujibur Rahman pronounced the verdicts to two separate cases in a packed
courtroom and also fined the death row convicts Tk five lakh each.
The judge said he was delivering the verdict with the permission of the Supreme Court. A High Court bench on January 27 had rejected applications by three of the accused to change the court and recall Ahadur Rahman, the first investigation officer of the cases.
Ahadur Rahman, the then officer-in-charge of Karnaphuli police, on April 3, 2004 had filed the cases – one under section 19 (A) of Arms Act and the other for smuggling under section 25 (B) of Special Powers Act – in connection with the recovery of 10 truckloads of arms and ammunition from the jetty of Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Factory on April 1, 2004.
The seized weapons included 4,930 sophisticated firearms, 27,020 grenades,840 rocket launchers,300 rockets, 2,000 grenade launching tubes, 6,392 magazines and 11,40,520 bullets.
Eleven of the convicts, including Jamaat-e-Islami amir and former industries minister Matiur Rahman Nizami and BNP central leader and former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, were in the dock during the pronouncement of the verdicts.
Apart from Nizami and Babar, the others who would walk the gallows, are the military commander of United Liberation Front of Asom, Paresh Baruah, former director general of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence retired major general Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, former director general of National Security Intelligence retired brigadier general Abdur Rahim, former NSI director retired wing commander Shahabuddin Ahmed, former NSI deputy director retired major Liakat Hossain, NSI field officer Akbar Hossain, former managing director of the Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Factory Limited Mohshin Talukder and its former general manager AKM Enamul Haque, former industries secretary Nurul Amin, transport and labourer suppliers Hafizur Rahman Hafiz and Din Mohammad and trawler owner Hazi Abdus Sobhan.
Paresh Baruah and Nurul Amin are on the run while Abdus Sobhan is out on bail.
The court also acquitted 36 people of smuggling charges and 38 persons in arms case.
Public prosecutor Kamal Uddin said he was very happy with the verdicts in the sensational arms haul case.
‘We produced all evidence which have proved the charges. The consignment was meant for ULFA of India and the incident was unprecedented and very sensitive.’
Defence counsel Kamrul Islam Sajjad, who moved for Rezzakul Haider, rejected the verdict saying, ‘We cannot accept this judgment. It was politically motivated. We will move the higher court against this judgment after consulting our senior lawyers.’
He said there were 265 witnesses in the two cases, but only 56 were called for recording their statements and none of them gave deposition blaming the accused persons.
‘This judgment has been designed from political point of view to malign the accused,’ he said.
The cases got a new start after the court on November 20, 2007 ordered a fresh investigation with the recording of confessional statements of two accused Hafizur Rahman and Deen Mohammad. Earlier, the cases were in a low profile as the charge sheets had implicated the truck workers, trawler crew and labourers involved in loading and unloading at the CUFL jetty which was under the ministry of industries.
A number of retired and serving influential officials of the government, including former home secretary Omar Faruque and former director general of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence Sadique Hasan Rumi, testified before the court as witnesses.
The weapons of Chinese origin reached the outer anchorage of Chittagong port in a liner vessel and two local trawlers carried the arms to the CUFL jetty on the night of April 1, 2004 for trafficking across the border through a route in Chittagong Hill Tracts, investigators said quoting confession of several accused.
The investigators failed to trace the liner vessel.
Ahadur as the first investigation officer initially had accused 43 people in the arms case and 45 others in the smuggling case and the cases were later handed over to Criminal Investigation Department in Chittagong on April 26, 2004 and CID assistant superintendent Kabir Uddin was appointed the investigation officer.
Kabir Uddin submitted the first charge sheets accusing 39 people on June 11, 2004.
Kabir was replaced by CID ASP Mir Nawsher Ali who submitted the supplementary charge sheet of the arms case implicating 43 people on August 28, 2004 as then public prosecutor Abdus Sattar filed discontent petition before the court which framed charges against the accused on April 23, 2005. Nawsher also submitted charge sheet in the smuggling case implicating 45 people on November 9, 2004 and the court framed charges against the accused on November 30, 2004.
Trial in the cases began on July 5, 2005 with the deposition of Ahadur and continued till August 14, 2007. A total of 31 prosecution witnesses in the arms case and 28 in the smuggling case testified until then.
On November 20, 2007, additional public prosecutor Humayun Kabir Rasel appealed to the court for further investigation into the two cases and on February 12, 2008, the court of metropolitan session judge ANM Bashirullah ordered further investigation specifying seven points.
ASP Ismail Hossain of the CID carried out the investigation as the fourth investigation officer of the cases but he failed to submit charge sheets even after extension of deadline six times.
On January 29, 2009, ASP Moniruzzaman was appointed the fifth investigation officer after a court order to replace Ismail Hossain on an appeal by the state lawyer.
Moniruzzaman on June 26, 2011 submitted supplementary charge sheets implicating 11 more people, including former industries minister Matiur Rahman Nizami and former state minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar.
The court of Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1 framed the charges against the accused in both the cases on November 15, 2009 and the trial started on November 29 in 2011. A total of 38 accused were examined under section 342 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) while 53 prosecution witnesses testified in the smuggling case and 56 others in the arms case.

Courtesy of New Age

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