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Wait for justice gets longer

by Khan Helal

Justice could not be delivered even 17 years after the grisly murder of Awami League lawmaker Ahsanullah Master as appeals in case are still now pending with the apex court.

The procrastination of case proceedings and wait for justice may take few more years because the regular judicial functions of the top court remain suspended for the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Amid the harsh reality, the 17th death anniversary of Ahsanullah Master, a veteran freedom fighter and lawmaker from Gazipur-2 constituency, is being observed today.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court is yet to start hearing on appeals filed against the High Court verdict in the case, although they were filed a few years ago.

Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain, principal defence counsel of the case, told The Daily Star that the Appellate Division is now hearing and disposing of the death reference and appeals of 2013.

The appeals and death reference in Ahsanullah Master killing were filed in 2016 and, therefore, they will be heard and disposed of few years later if they come up before the apex court maintaining serials, he said.

He said he will not place the appeals of his clients (convicts who are now in jail) before the Appellate Division for their quick hearing as it will not bring any benefit for them. “The Appellate Division will hold hearing on the appeals and death reference maintaining the serials.”

Khandker Mahbub said his clients will have to serve in jail till the apex court deliver its verdict in the case.

Deputy Attorney General Bishwajit Debnath said the Appellate Division is now virtually holding the appeals filed against the ad-interim orders of the High Court Division.

The apex court is not hearing the appeals filed against the full verdicts of the High Court due to Covid-19 pandemic, he said, adding that the appeal hearing in Ahsanullah Master murder case will be held when they will be included in the hearing list of the Appellate Division.

On May 7 in 2004, assailants killed Ahsanullah Master and Omar Faruq Ratan, a student, and wounded 17 others in a staccato burst of fire on a rally of Swechchhasebak League at Noagaon near the lawmaker’s house in Tongi.

His brother filed the case next day, against 19 people, including Nurul Islam Sarkar, a Jubo Dal leader.

On April 16 in 2005, a Dhaka court handed death sentences to 22 people and life terms to six others. A decade later, on June 15, 2016, the High Court confirmed death penalty of six persons, including Nurul.

The HC, however, commuted capital punishment of seven others to life imprisonment, upheld life term of two and acquitted 11 of charges.

Currently, five appeals challenging the High Court verdict are pending with the apex court, including those by Ahsanullah’s brother Motiur Rahman, the government and convicts, attorney general office sources said.

The appeals sought death penalty of all convicts, while convicts sought acquittal from all conviction and sentences.

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