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7 to die for Holey Artisan attack

Victim’s family for quick implementation, security experts term verdict as milestone

Published : 27 Nov 2019 09:36 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 06:46 PM

A special anti-terrorism tribunal on Wednesday sentenced seven top level militants of the banned Islamist terrorist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for their involvement in an attack on the Holey Artisan café in city’s diplomatic enclave Gulshan area that killed twenty two innocent people, mostly Japanese and Italian.

Judge Mojibur Rahman found the terrorists completely guilty of various charges including planning the deadly attack, making bombs and other explosives and carrying out the gruesome killing. However, an eighth defendant was acquitted by the court. The seven death-row convicts are militants Hadisur Rahman, Rakibul Hasan Regan, Shariful Islam Khaled, Mamunur Rashid Ripon, Jahangir Hossain, Aslam Hossain Rash and Md Abdus Sabur Khan. They are all members of JMB. They were also fined Tk 50,000 each by the court.

While delivering the verdict, Judge Md Mojibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal of Dhaka ordered the convicts to be hanged till death. Another accused Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, who was head of JMB’s Bombs and Explosives unit, was acquitted from the case as allegations brought against him could not be proved by the prosecution.

The judge handed down the verdict in front of a packed courtroom amid heavy security. The defendants, who have claimed innocence, can appeal against the verdict. The full verdict was not immediately available but the judge said the men acted against the sovereignty of the country and its constitution in executing the plan of such a deadly terrorist attack in which foreigners had been targeted and killed.

They wanted to undermine public safety, create anarchy and establish a Jihadist state, he said, adding that the seven will be executed by hanging until they are pronounced dead. After hearing the verdict, some of the terrorists shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Long live faith of Islam’. Some of the militants also became upset and started shouting at the judge. At that stage , they were led to a waiting police van.

The judge read out the judgement amid tight security in presence of the convicts, who were taken to the court around 1015am. On July 1, 2016, armed Islamist militants stormed the Holey Artisan cafe. The grisly terror attack left 22 people dead. Two police officers- Rabiul Karim, Assistant Commissioner of Detective Branch and then Banani Police Station OC Mohammad Salahuddin were also killed.

The five gunmen, who held the diners hostage were later killed inside the upscale bakery in a commando operation launched to end the siege, are Nibrash Islam, Khairul Islam Payel, Shafiqul Islam Uzzal, Mir Sabeh Mubashir and Rohan Ibne Imtiaz. On July 4 that year, Sub-Inspector Ripon Kumar Das filed a case with Gulshan Police Station under the Anti-Terrorism Act accusing six named and some unknown people of creating unrest in Bangladesh and trying to turn it into a terrorist state.

During the trial proceedings, which ended in less than a year, several witnesses, including former North South University teacher Abul Hasnat Reza Karim, his wife, owner of the Holey Artisan restaurant, and top police officials narrated the horror that unfolded during the attack. Hasnat was first shown arrested in the case, but was later relieved of the charges following a probe that found no evidence of his involvement.

Police investigation later found involvement of 21 militants in the attack. Five of them were killed in the standoff, eight in anti-militancy drives later. On July 23 last year, Inspector Humayun Kabir of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of police pressed charges against eight of the 21 militants.

Eight of the accused killed later in different pre-emptive anti-militancy drives are Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury and Sarwar Jahan, top operatives of mainstream JMB and financiers; Nurul Islam Marzan, a Chittagong University student and café attack coordinator; Jahidul Islam, a retired major and trainer, Basharuzzaman Chocolate, a software engineer; Abu Raihan Tarik, a top operative, Tanvir Kaderi, a banker and financier; and Mizanur Rahman alias Chhoto Mizan, grenade supplier.

According to the charge sheet, the suspects carried out the attack to destabilise the country. They also wanted to put the government under pressure, make investors and foreign consultants leave the country and destroy the economy. The suspects thought if they could kill a large number of foreigners, they would be under local and international spotlight. At the same time, they would be able to draw the attention of global terrorist groups, said the charge sheet. (A photograph of the six of the Holey Artisan attackers in front of ISIS flag was later found in their belongings)

On November 26 last year, the tribunal framed charges against the eight accused and the trial began on December 3. Meanwhile, security measures have been beefed up in and around the court area in old Dhaka. Hundreds of law enforcers, including Rapid Action Battalion and police, were seen inside the court boundary, said our reporters from the spot.

At the entrances of the court, law enforcers were conducting body-check. They were also checking the belongings of those who were carrying any bags. Metal detectors were also used for checking purpose. Two metal detector archways were installed at the entrance of the court building and at the courtroom.

Besides, a metal detector was being used to check people entering the premises. The family of DB assistant commissioner Rabiul Karim, who was killed during the 12-hour standoff on July 1 Gulshan café attack, wants immediate execution of the verdict.

While talking to reporters Rabiul’s brother Shamsuzzaman Shams urged the government to do something remarkable so that the countrymen can remember the victims. The government can establish an organisation after the victims’ names or it can also implement any of their dreams, he added.

The prosecution has expressed their satisfaction over the verdict that awarded death penalty to seven militants in Holey Artisan Café attack case. After the verdict was announced around 1215pm, Metropolitan Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu told reporters that they are satisfied over the judgement but they also expressed concern as one of the accused was acquitted of the charge.

We will come to know the reason behind his acquittal after the full verdict will be released, he said. We will take decision in this regard after the release of the full judgement, the public prosecutor said. However, the defence has expressed dissatisfaction and said they would challenge the verdict that sentenced seven people to death.

We are aggrieved by the verdict, Delwar Hosen, one of the defence counsels, said while talking to reporters on the court premises in Old Dhaka after the verdict was pronounced. The counsel said his clients did not get justice. The verdict was given based on faulty evidence, he claimed.

Security analyst retired Major General Abdur Rashid called the verdict ‘a milestone’. With this verdict, Bangladesh legally establishes its zero-tolerance stance against militancy and terrorism, he told media.