The Anti-terrorism Special Tribunal in Dhaka on Sunday set November 27 to deliver the verdict in the case against eight people in connection with the extremist attack in the Holey Artisan Bakery in capital’s Gulshan on July 1, 2016.
The attack left a total 29 people killed, including foreigners and law enforcers.
As the final arguments by both prosecution and defence counsels were completed on the day, tribunal chair Md Mujibur Rahman would take only 10 days to deliver the verdict in the case.
Of the 211 prosecution witnesses, 113 testified against the eight accused held at different times.
The trial commenced on November 26, 2018 with six accused in custody and two others on the run.
On January 25, 2019, the Rapid Action Battalion claimed to have arrested the last fugitive accused linked to the Holey Artisan Bakery.
While the trial was in progress, the law ministry on October 17, 2019 removed the tribunal’s special public prosecutor Jahangir Alam Chowdhury from his post for negligence in discharging duties and issued a gazette notification to this end.
As the tribunal set the verdict date, incumbent prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan hoped that highest punishment would be awarded to the accused while defence counsel of four accused Delwar Hossain said they sought justice.
On July 1, 2016, a group of armed extremists stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant in capital’s Gulshan in the month of Ramadan.
They killed two people within half an hour and kept the café seized for 12 hours. The hostage crisis ended following an army-led commando operation on July 2, 2016.
The Islamic State group claimed the responsibility for the attack.
But the government and its agencies denied the claim and branded them as ‘Neo-JMB’ members and a number of them were from a breakaway faction of banned extremist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.
The Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen in separate statements, however, denied their involvement in the attack.
On July 23, 2018, inspector Humayun Kabir of the counterterrorism division submitted charge sheet to the court of the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate against the eight accused and named 211 people as prosecution witnesses.
The charges were brought for ‘terrorism’. The highest punishment for ‘terrorism’ is death sentence.
Before the trial kicked off, the investigators arrested six accused – Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, Rashed alias Rash, Sohel Mafuz Nasrullah, Rakibul Islam Regan, Mizanur Rahman and Hadisur Rahman Sagor – who, according to law enforcement agencies, made statements in courts naming 21 people including themselves directly or indirectly involved in the attack.
The whereabouts of two other accused – Shariful Islam Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon – were yet to be known as both, convicted on April 23, 2016 of the murder of Rajshahi University English professor AKM Rezaul Karim Siddique, fled to India.
As the trial began fugitive Shariful was arrested on January 25 and the other fugitive Mamunur Rashid alias Ripon on January 20 by the RAB.
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, are yet to determine the circumstances in which Saiful and Jakir were killed or whether they had any link to the attack.
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