The police on Monday brought charges against eight suspects for extremist attack on Gulshan café Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, 2016 that left 29 people, including 17 foreigners and five suspects.
The counter terrorism and transnational crimes unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, however, dropped Bangladesh origin British citizen Hasnat Karim, still in jail after he along with his family members survived the attack.
The charge sheet was submitted to the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court for further legal procedure as the court was scheduled for Thursday for the next hearing of the case, officials said.
The charge sheet named eight suspected operatives of banned extremist outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh faction. Six of the accused were now in prisons while the rest two were still in hiding and police sought warrants for their arrests.
The charges were brought for ‘terrorism’, having membership of banned organisation, supporting banned outfit, criminal conspiracy, and attempt to commit crimes, abetment and instigation. The highest punishment
for ‘terrorism’ is sentence to death.
As the charge sheet was filed under the Anti-Terrorism Act, it would be tried by the newly formed Anti Terrorism Tribunal, said Dhaka Metropolitan’s additional public prosecutor Tapash Kumar Pal.
Counter terrorism unit chief Monirul Islam at a briefing at their media centre said that they identified 21 suspects involved in the attack aiming to destabilised the country financially and targeting ‘foreigners’ and ‘non-Muslims’.
He added that 13 of the 21 suspects could not be placed for trial as eight of them were killed in operations or ‘committed suicide’ during drives while the rest five suspects were killed during military operation at Holey Artisan on July 2, 2016.
‘The motive was to destabilise the country and make it a terrorist country,’ he asserted.
Monirul claimed that the investigations and forensic examinations of the evidences could not establish any connections between the suspects and foreign extremist outfits, including Islamic State or Al Qaeda.
In the evening of July 1, 2016, five youths with guns and knives stormed the upscale café at diplomatic enclave Gulshan in Dhaka, held dozens hostage and killed 22, including 17 foreigners and two police officials, and injured 31 cops.
‘All but one Japanese national [who hid in a freezer] were killed within 20-25 minutes. They were shot initially and hacked to confirm their deaths,’ said Monirul referring the medico-legal evidences.
‘We could not able to rescue them, this is our failure,’ said Monirul.
Monirul, the lead investigator, admitted that investigation was delayed but ‘time was spent to make it accurate.’
Police officials said that counter terrorism unit deputy commissioner Mohibul Islam Khan and his team conducted the investigation and took help of their colleagues in police headquarters, Bogra, Narayangnaj and Chapainawabganj.
Unit’s inspector Humayun Kabir handed over the charge sheet to the court in the afternoon as the home ministry gave the green signal recently, the officials said.
In the charge sheet, the investigators named 211 prosecution witnesses, including 149, who directly or indirectly experienced or saw the incident.
Seventy-five documentary evidences were also submitted to the court as material evidences of the incident which, the investigators said, was planned ‘five to six months’ before the attack.
The officials said that 17 survivals made statements before courts in the case.
Hasnat Karim, also former North South University teacher who was dining with his family at the café when it was attacked, was formally arrested by the police nearly one month after the incident and it was not sure about his whereabouts after cops took him in custody on suspicion of aiding the attackers.
‘We found no specific information of his involvement in the incident. We also examined the documents from his university [the North South University] and he was not fired, rather he resigned to look after his father’s business,’ Monirul said.
He said that analysing the testimonies of 17 survivors and other evidences, nothing was found against Hasnat Karim.
‘We do not want to detail why he was in jail. He is in jail as he could not obtain bail,’ said Monirul.
‘I met him today for 10 minutes at Kashimpur jail [in Gazipur]. He was not aware of the news [that he was dropped from the charge sheet],’ said Hasnat’s wife Sharmina Parveen Karim.
‘Nothing is going to happen if we talk about the losses made in two years,’ she lamented.
She said that they were now discussing with the lawyers on how he could be released as next hearing of the case was scheduled for July 26.
Asked about the family’s plan after his release, the wife replied, ‘let him come out [of jail] first.’
Metropolitan police deputy commission (prosecution) Anisur Rahman said that the charge sheet was submitted to the court and on July 26 it might be transferred to a competent court for trial.
‘Trial court will decide Hasnta’s fate,’ said Anisur replying to a query.
Investigators said that the six detained accused – Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, Rashed alias Rash, Sohel Mafuz Nasrullah, Rakibul Islam Regan, Mizanur Rahman and Hadisur Rahman Sagor – made statements in courts naming 21 people including themselves directly or indirectly involved in the attack.
The investigators branded 30-year-old Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury as the mastermind of the attack which, the investigators believed, was finally planned 5-6 months before the attack.
The investigators, however, claimed that they could establish no connection between the extremist group and foreign extremist outfits as Tamim and his associates were killed during the drives following the café attack.
They found that half of the suspected extremists were former operatives of banned JMB faction while the rest, including retired major Jahidul Islam, pledged allegiance to Tamim.
Tamim’s five ‘trusted’ operatives – Nibrash Islam, Mir Samih Mubashir and Rohan Imtiaz, all from English-medium background, and Md Khairul Islam Payel alias Badhan and Md Shafiqul Islam Uzzal alias Bikash, both from Bogra – were killed on July 2, 2016, when army commandos stormed into the café to ‘rescue’ hostages.
‘Rohan Imtiaz led the attack while Md Khairul Islam Payel was his deputy,’ said Monirul.
Eight other suspects – Tamim, former JMB operative Sarwar Jahan Manik, Chittagong University student Nurul Islam Marjan, retired major Jahidul Islam, software engineer Basharuzzaman alias Chocolate, Abu Raihan Tarik and banker Tanvir Qaderi – were killed in operations in Dhaka and elsewhere.
Whereabouts of two accused – Shariful Islam Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon – were yet to be known as the investigators believed that the two, convicted of the murder of Rajshahi University English professor AKM Rezaul Karim Siddique on April 23, 2016, fled to India.
The investigators specified the role of the attackers, the financers and arms suppliers, while security forces branded the operatives as members of JMB faction led by Sarwar and Tamim.
The JMB faction, however, in online statements on July 4 once again, dismissed its involvement in the attack and claimed that a few misguided members had left the outfit.
Arms, ammunition and explosives were brought from India, and money came from Middle East, the investigators said.
Middle East extremist organisation Islamic State claimed the responsibility for a number of attacks including the Holey Artisan attack.
The café’s chef Saiful Chowkidar was also killed in the commando operation while staff Jakir Hossain Shaon later died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital in custody.
The counter terrorism officials, however, yet to determine in what circumstance Saiful and Jakir were killed or whether they had any link to the attack.
Monirul declined to term their death as ‘collateral damage’.
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