The High Court (HC) is now scheduled to hear the death reference and appeals in the sensational 10-truck arms haul case in which 14 people, including former ministers, were sentenced to death.
The death reference (approval of death sentence) and appeals in the case have been included in the cause list (agenda) of the High Court.
The HC bench of Justice Shahidul Karim and Justice Md Akhtaruzzaman is scheduled to hear the appeals and the death reference tomorrow (Sunday).
Earlier, the HC bench of Justice Bhabani Prasad Singha and Justice Mustafa Zaman Islam was scheduled to hear the death reference and the appeals. On January 8 in 2019, the HC bench had refused to hear the death reference and appeals. Later, the matter was sent to the chief justice for a decision.
The HC bench in that time had made the death reference and appeals ‘out of list’ as Justice Bhabani Prasad Singha was a metropolitan sessions judge in Chattogram from January 18 in 2009 to May 23 in 2010 and he had passed some interlocutory orders in the 10-truck arms haul case during the period.
If a lower court sentences any person to death, its judgment is examined by the High Court through hearing arguments for confirmation of the death sentence. The case documents and judgment reach as death reference to the HC from the lower court in seven days after the latter delivers the verdict.
Twelve of the 14 death row convicts in the case filed separate appeals with the HC challenging the trial court’s verdict.
On January 30 in 2014, the Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1 handed down death penalty to 14 people, including former minister and Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar of BNP, for smuggling 10 truckloads of firearms during the BNP-led government’s tenure.
Later, Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami was executed in wartime crime case. A death row convict in the 10-truck arms haul case died in 2021 after contracting coronavirus. Abdur Rahim, a former chief of the National Security Intelligence (NSI), died in Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital where he was taken from the Kashimpur prison for treatment.
The verdict in the case points to the state machinery’s involvement in the smuggling of the huge cache of weapons meant for the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), a separatist group fighting for independent Assam of India.
On April 2 in 2004, police seized 10 trucks of weapons and ammunition from the state-owned Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL) jetty in Chattogram while those were being offloaded from trawlers in the early hours.
Around 1,500 wooden boxes containing submachine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, submachine carbines, Chinese pistols, rocket shells and launchers, hand grenades and bullets were seized.
The seizure of the huge cache of arms had triggered widespread uproar.
The trial in the case began on July 6 in 2005 with the deposition of plaintiff Ahadur Rahman.
The prosecution pleaded for further investigation on November 20 in 2007, during the caretaker government’s tenure. The court had accepted the plea and also ordered making seven observations.
No person was initially accused in the arms haul cases, but investigation reports found involvement of some ministers of the then BNP-led Four-Party alliance government and some former senior intelligence officials.