Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Verdict Vs. Mercy

The military government of Bangladesh has once again shown the nation how dramatically it could influence the court. Dhaka court has been too quick to acquit and sentence the University Professors and students in two back to back hearings. At least the teachers and students are now free at the mercy of the President. But the wounds won't heal soon. This court's dramatic act and the quick Presidential mercy will mar the transparency of the court and the justice system. Read the rest from bdnews24:

Dhaka, Jan 22 (bdnews24.com) – Four Dhaka University teachers Tuesday walked out of prison to the warm, yet tearful reception of relatives, colleagues and adherents. Full Story. Updates with PID note

Freedom of the four teachers—three of them sentenced to two years in jail but pardoned by President Iajuddin Ahmed just as quickly—and the fourth acquitted by a Dhaka court—drew a line under a long-running contentions issue.

There were no appeals for mercy by the families of the convicted teachers.

Deputy inspector general (prisons) Major Shamsul Haider Siddiqui told bdnews24.com that jail authorities had freed the teachers after receiving documents of presidential clemency.

The prisons official said they could not free Moniruzzaman, one of the 15 students acquitted by the court, as jail authorities did not receive any supporting document on his freedom.

Secretary to the Chief Adviser's Office Md Kazi Aminul Islam had earlier confirmed to bdnews24.com that the president approved the files for mercy.

The government also withdrew all cases against teachers and students involving the August violence—a move seen as a remedy to the months of tensions on the campus.

Additional chief metropolitan magistrate M Golam Rabbani, who presided over the case Tuesday morning, convicted DUTA president Professor Sadrul Amin, general secretary Professor Anwar Hossain and social sciences faculty dean Professor Harun-or-Rashid.

Rabbani however acquitted applied physics and electronics department chairman Prof Nimchandra Bhowmick, and 15 students of the same charges.

The three teachers had been jailed for two years on charges of breaking emergency rules and fomenting days of campus violence in August last year.

In a statement, the Press Information Department said the president had cleared the three teachers of conviction by exercising his powers in line with Article 49 of the constitution.

The case centred on the August violence, which was sparked after some military men from a makeshift camp on the university campus beat a student during a football match.

The students had burst into protests against the incident and demanded withdrawal of the camp from the campus.

The melee had continued to grow and spilled over onto the streets of Dhaka and elsewhere in the country, prompting the interim government to impose curfew.

The students clashed with the police and attacked army vehicles in Dhaka and Rajshahi.

The incidents led to a raft of cases against teachers and students.

In one of the cases, which involve breach of emergency rule, a Dhaka court Monday acquitted the four teachers and 11 students of Dhaka University.

The court had convicted four students in the case but later they were forgiven by the president. The same day, 10 other Rajshahi University students and an employee also got presidential clemency.

After release from Dhaka Central Jail Tuesday, the teachers placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar on their way home to the campus.

Tuesday's verdict sparked protests on the campus.

A teacher said the verdict was "stage-managed" while another teacher said it was meant to "trample the dignity of Dhaka University".

The magistrate took only one minute to read out the summary of the 36-page verdict.

The four teachers of Dhaka University were in the dock when the magistrate pronounced the verdict.

The lawyers however made competing statements.

Defence counsel advocate Masud Talukder, said: "It's a mysterious judgement. There were no lawyers for the state in court."

Additional public prosecutor Kabir Hossain said: "The teachers had violated emergency rule. In the trial procedure, there was no intervention by the government as the judiciary is free."


Monika Bhowmick, wife of acquitted teacher Nimchandra Bhowmick, said she was happy about the verdict on her husband.

"But I'm very upset about the verdict against his colleagues," she said.

"The nation is shocked. I came to the court in the morning to hear good news. I demand their freedom. This verdict is conspiratorial," she said.

Sanjib Hossain, son of DU professor Anwar Hossain, had earlier said: "My father has said this verdict is against the conscience of the nation. My father won't seek mercy. My father won't come out of prison as long as any of his colleagues or students remains in jail."

Immediately after the verdict, Professor Nimchandra Bhowmick had said he would not leave the jail without his colleagues.

Even after the presidential mercy, Nimchandra refused to leave the jail as one of the students was not freed yet for "technical reasons".

The DIG (prisons) referred to the Jail Code that does not allow "pardoned inmates" to stay inside. And Nimchandra obliged.


Earlier in the day, two groups of Dhaka University teachers tied to the Awami League and left parties had rejected the court verdict.

The teachers called upon people to stand beside them through the "hard days".

The teachers assembled at the Battola on the campus in a midday demonstration and protested the verdict.

"The judgment has simply wounded us. DU is passing hard days," said Muntasir Mamun, a professor of history.

"We'd request all to stand beside us as they did in the past—in 1969, 1971 and in 1990."

"Protesting injustice and misrule has been our tradition and heritage through the past century-long life of the university, leading the country and the nation to realising a number of its cherished goals, including independence," Prof Muntasir had said.

"This military-backed government wants to see us trampled under the military's boots. We'll not allow that to happen. We want our teachers be freed with honour."

Professor Mesbah Kamal said: "The teachers and students here are no criminals. They just happened to speak up when the sanctity of the university was violated."

"The prestige of DU has been undermined seriously by the mockery of a judgment delivery," Prof Abdus Samad said.

On the news of the sentencing in the morning, acting dean of the social sciences faculty AAMS Arefin Siddique said: "I've heard about the judgment, which showed that the government is ill-disposed towards the highest educational institution in the country."

"I vehemently protest this inimical attitude."


Students of Dhaka University had also rejected the verdict.

The students brought out midday processions on the campus amid tight security to denounce the verdict.

Under three banners, the students rallied briefly when they demanded that the government stop "playing a game" with the contentious issues.

Police and other law enforcers put in place a huge security arrangement in and outside the campus to avoid any violence.

A senior police official, who talked to a bdnews24.com correspondent on the scene, preferring not to be named, said they had ordered officials to stay alert.

He said they were restricting entry of outsiders to the campus area and let the students and employees in after security checks.

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