State counsel in the Biswajit Das murder trial has alleged that witnesses were scared of testifying after one of them was recently beaten up following deposition.
SM Rafiqul Islam on Monday demanded security for the witnesses in the sensational murder that caused widespread outrage.
He also hoped the verdict in the case would come soon once the trial was likely to end by the first week of next month.
Lawyers for the accused leaders and activists of Jagannath University’s Chhatra League unit cross-examined the case’s first investigation officer Mahbubul Alam on Monday. He had deposed on Sunday.
Acting judge of Dhaka’s Speedy Trial Tribunal-4 Md Nuruzzaman adjourned the hearing for Tuesday.
The case was transferred to the tribunal from the Dhaka District Judge’s Court earlier this year for faster trial.
Rafiqul Islam told bdnews24.com: “Police are supposed to provide security to the witnesses. But I read in newspapers that witness Ripon Sarker was beaten by police.”
Biswajit Das, a tailor, was attacked and hacked by ruling Awami League’s student front activists on Dec 9 last year near Bahadur Shah Park in Old Dhaka during a blockade of the opposition.
Rickshawpuller Ripon Sarker had taken Das to Sir Salimullah Medical College and Hospital, better known Mitford Hospital, in critical condition.
Sarker was allegedly beaten by police two days ago after he had testified in court. He had identified the arrested eight of the 21 suspects in the murder case.
Islam demanded punishment to the police officials who beat Sarker.
According to case details, most of the witnesses run small businesses around Jagannath University. Some of them are teashop owners, drivers and cleaners.
The state counsel has notified the home ministry about his complaint through Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Crime, Information and Prosecution Department’s Additional Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Anisur Rahman.
Officials, however, said the ministry has deputed DMP’s Assistant Commissioner (Prosecution) Miras Uddin and the case’s second investigation officer, Detective Branch Inspector Tajul Islam, to supervise the case proceedings and security of the witnesses.
Rafiqul Islam also demanded arrest of the absconding Chhatra League leaders who are accused in the case. “Many witnesses are scared to tell the truth because of them. They are coming to the court facing death threats.”
“The case proceedings are coming to an end. But police haven’t arrested the 13 absconding accused yet. Now the accused and their accomplices are threatening the witnesses,” he said.
“Key witnesses have already deposed in the court. Second investigation officer Tajul Islam will testify this month. Then the accused will speak in self defence and in the last phase, the verdict will come after counterarguments of both parties.”
DB Inspector Tajul Islam, who is also the last investigation officer, was also present in the court on Monday. He will start deposing once the first investigation officer, Mahbubul Alam, finishes doing his.
Alam faced obstruction from the defence on Sunday when he was submitting the CD and DVD footage of the attack on Biswajit from private TV news reports and a notebook containing newspaper reports on the murder to the court.
The defence alleged that even though these materials have witness value according to Section 16 of the Speedy Trial Act-2000, the police official did not add them in the seizure list following protocol.
13 accused still on the run
Meanwhile, police have not arrested most of the accused in the high-profile case even 10 months into the killing.
Though the law enforcers say they are on the run, there are allegations that some of the suspects still come to Jagannath University.
Tajul Islam told reporters that they were vigilant and trying to nab the perpetrators.
“There are arrest warrants for the 13 fugitives. Those have been sent to all police stations. We keep constant communications with the station. We are trying to catch them.”
Those who are still absconding are – Rajon Talukder, Yunus Ali, Obaidur Qader Tahsin, Azizur Rahman, Alauddin, Imran Hossain, Mir Nur-e Alam Limon, Al-Amin, Rafiqul Islam, Kamrul Hasan, Tarik Bin Johor Tomal, Monirul Haque Pavel and Mosharraf Hossain.
Those who have been arrested and currently behind bars are Rafiqul Islam Shakil, Mahfuzur Rahman Nahid, Emdadul Haque Emdad, GM Rasheduzzaman Shawon, AHM Kibria, Saiful Islam, Kaium Mia and Golam Mostofa.
Of the arrestees, Emdad, Shawon and Nahid have given confessional statement to the judge.