Dhaka: The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on Thursday launched rallies nationwide to protest the indictment of its founder and slain former president Ziaur Rahman in a high court judgment earlier this week.
The high court on Tuesday declared that the 1976 trial and execution of Colonel Abu Taher, a freedom fighter, as "illegal and unconstitutional". It held Ziaur Rahman responsible for masterminding the trial.
Ziaur Rahman and Taher were both Bangladesh freedom fighters in 1971 who developed serious differences later. Ziaur Rahman, the then Army chief, had him arrested and tried.
"The so-called trial and execution of Colonel Abu Taher was a cold-blooded assassination, which was masterminded by a person no other than Ziaur Rahman," the court said, the Daily Star reported.
A star witness in the trial was American scribe and Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Lifshultz, who returned here to depose before the court, 35 years after he was expelled by the Ziaur Rahman-led military government.
Ziaur Rahman`s widow, Begum Khaleda Zia, is the BNP chief and a former prime minister. She is currently the leader of opposition in Parliament.
The BNP termed the court verdict "politically motivated" and a "conspiracy" to tarnish Ziaur Rahman`s image.
"The entire nation is disappointed and astonished over the verdict. It`s [the verdict] the product of a deep-rooted conspiracy and ill political motive," Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, BNP`s senior joint secretary general, said.
According to Mirza Fakhrul, Taher had attempted to destroy the Army by creating Gono Bahini, an armed communist political force, which Ziaur Rahman foiled, thus "saving the Army as well as the country".
The BNP official said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s government was "using the judiciary to undermine Zia".