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Lawyers seek death penalty for Mujib murder convicts

Last Updated: Thursday, November 12, 2009 - 00:25

Dhaka: State lawyers on Wednesday pleaded before
the apex court to uphold the death penalties for convicts in
the murder trial of Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
as they wrapped up submissions in the final appeal hearing of
the case, describing the crime as "diabolical and revolting".

"The collective conscience of the nation is so shocked by
such horrendous crime that it expects the holders of the
judicial power centre to inflict no other sentence but the
death penalty," chief state counsel Anisul Haque said at the
Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

He said there was no scope to reduce the sentence in view
of the heinous crimes the convicts had committed adding that
the August 15, 1975 assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
along with most of his family members was "extremely brutal,
grotesque, diabolical and revolting".

His comments came on the 27th day of the final appeal
hearing at the highest court. The counsels for the jailed
convicts have sought life imprisonment instead of death
penalty for their clients.

Five of the 12 ex-army officers, who faced the trial in
person, were earlier given capital punishment.

The apex court granted the leave to appeal by five of the
12 condemned convicts, now in jail, while six others are on
the run abroad and one died a natural death in Zimbabwe.

Rahman, fondly called Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal), who
was also the father of incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,
was assassinated along with most of his family members in a
military putsch carried out by a group of junior army
officers. Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana survived
the carnage as they were abroad at that time.

On conclusion of the submissions by the state side, the
lawyers of the convicted appellants started replying to the
submission of the attorney general and other state lawyers.

Defence lawyer Abdullah Al Mamun said his clients
deserved the "benefit of doubt" in view of "several
contradictions" in the witnesses` testimonies at the trial
stage at the lower court. He also said the August 15 incident
was a mutiny and needed trial in a military court.

"From the depositions and cross examinations of several
witnesses, it was established that it was a mutiny and not the
outcome of a conspiracy to kill Bangabandhu," he said.

Then Dhaka District and Sessions Judge Quazi Golam Rasul
originally awarded 15 accused, all former army officers, the
capital punishment in 1998 while the trial started with the
indictment of 20 accused.

The case was then referred to a two-member High Court
bench for mandatory death reference as well as appeal hearing
where the senior judge confirmed the punishment of 10 of them
and the companion judge upheld the conviction of all the 15.

The split judgement required the case to be referred to a
third judge in a second bench of the High Court which
confirmed the death penalties of 12 of the accused.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, November 12, 2009 - 00:25
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