Ever since Abdur Rashid got acquitted in the sensational BDR killing case from the lower court, his family members have been counting days to see him walk out of jail.
Seven years went by and he is still behind bars.
The 53-year-old subedar of the paramilitary force, formerly Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and renamed Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), is being tried in another case filed under the Explosive Substances Act with no chance of getting released anytime soon in sight.
“After serving four years in jail, my father got acquitted in 2013. The government has not filed any appeal against the acquittal. But he is still languishing in jail and we don’t know when he will be released,” said Rashid’s elder son Abdullah Al Mamun Shakil.
The trial proceedings in the explosive case are now moving very slowly and another 10 years would be required, apprehend the lawyer for the accused.
Rashid is not getting bail either, due to various legal complications.
“We are passing days amid uncertainty and financial hardships. My father has been suffering from various health problems, but we can’t do anything about it,” Shakil, 26, told The Daily Star.
Rashid joined the BDR headquarters at Pilkhana a couple of days before the bloody mutiny that shook the nation to its core. Seventy-four people, including 57 army officials, were massacred during the mutiny on February 25-26, 2009.
He was arrested on March 28, 2009.
On November 5, 2013, a Dhaka court awarded death sentence to 150 BDR members and two civilians, and life imprisonment to 160 others for their roles and involvement in the carnage.
The court handed down rigorous imprisonment to 256 people, mostly BDR soldiers. It acquitted 278 others but the government later appealed against the acquittal of 69.
The High Court started hearing the death reference and appeals from the convicts in January 2015 and pronounced the verdict on November 27, 2017.
The HC confirmed death penalty of 139 and upheld life sentences of 185 and three to 10 years’ imprisonment of 256.
It acquitted 200 accused and Rashid is one of them.
Three years went by, but neither the defence nor the state could file appeals with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the HC verdict as they were yet to get the certified copy of the judgment from the office concerned of the court.
As a result, 456 accused — including 200 acquitted — remain stuck in jail.
Their families, in the meantime, have been struggling to make ends meet amid financial difficulties as many of them used to be the lone bread earners.
“Our family was almost ruined after my father’s arrest. Me, my younger brother and our mother started providing private tuition, but the earnings are hardly enough to run our family. Even, we now cannot pay the fees of the lawyers for moving the cases,” said Shakil, who recently completed master’s and is seeking a job.
’10 YEARS REQUIRED TO COMPLETE TRIAL’
Aminul Islam, a defence lawyer for some 400 accused, said the trial proceedings of the explosive case are now moving very slowly and it is still uncertain whether the 456 accused would be released anytime soon, although no explosive substances were recovered from them.
There are 1,260 witnesses in the case filed under the act, but the court has so far recorded statements from around 150 witnesses, he told The Daily Star.
“At least 10 more years will be required for recording statements from all the witnesses and finishing the trial proceedings,” said Aminul.
The defence counsel said the financial conditions of most of the families are bad and they cannot afford to pay the fees to the lawyers. Now only two lawyers including him are appearing for them in court without any fees.
Aminul added 57 out of 200 accused who got acquittal from the HC in the BDR killing case moved a petition before the trial court first on September 7 and then on October 8, seeking bail in the case filed under the explosives act.
But the court refused to grant them bail as a bail petition of a particular accused is pending with the HC.
The lower court of Judge Imrul Kayes refused to give the certified copies of the orders — for this they cannot move bail petitions before the HC, he added.
Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol said the trial proceedings of the explosive case was delayed for around six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The lower court concerned is now holding the trial proceedings of the case for two days a month,” he told The Daily Star.
He hoped that the proceedings will be finished by this year.
The HC on January 8 released the 29,059-page full text of its verdict in the carnage case.
Nine months have gone by, but neither the defence nor the state are yet to get the certified copy of the judgment from the office concerned of the court. As a result, they could not file appeals.
An official requesting anonymity said the appeal section of the HC is now comparing the composed copy with the original one in order to prepare the certified copy.
He, however, could not specifically say when the certified copies will be ready.
Defence counsel Aminul Islam said the convicted accused will collectively move appeals before the Appellate Division challenging the HC verdict on them. Therefore, they will need at least three certified copies of the HC verdict for filing the appeals.
Contacted, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin told this newspaper that the government will appeal to the Appellate Division against parts of the HC verdict that acquitted the accused, and seek due punishment for them.
WHAT COULD BE DONE?
Criminal law expert Khurshid Alam Khan said the defence lawyers could have sought advance short order for the accused who got acquittal from the HC when the verdict was pronounced in 2017.
If they had got an advance short order from the HC, they might have been released from jail, he said.
Khurshid, also the editor of Days Law Reports (DLR), added that the defence lawyers now can move a petition before the HC seeking necessary directives on the lower court concerned for providing them with relevant documents so that they can move bail petitions before the HC for the accused who have been cleared of the original BDR carnage case.