[Dhaka Correspondent] A special tribunal in Dhaka Tuesday sentenced former state minister for home affairs, Lutfozzaman Babar, to 17 years of rigorous imprisonment for possessing unlicensed arms and ammunition. Judge of Special Tribunal 9, Syed Zahed Mansur, handed down the verdict in Babar’s presence.
“The prosecution has been able to prove the charges beyond all reasonable doubts,” the judge ruled. “It is shameful that Babar, a former state minister, kept illegal arms and ammunition in his residence, for which he deserves capital punishment. But he has been awarded the minimum punishment in consideration of his sickness.”
With Babar’s conviction, at least 220 people, mostly politicians, have so far been jailed for varying terms in the ongoing drive of the interim government against high-profile corruption and serious crimes.
According to the prosecution, sub-inspector Helal Uddin of the Gulshan thana on June 3 filed a case against Babar, stating that on May 28 night he, being informed by the joint forces, searched Babar’s Gulshan residence and found four firearms and a large cache of ammunition packed in a red bag in his bedroom.
Babar’s wife could produce licenses for three guns — a shotgun, a rifle and a pistol — but failed to immediately produce the license for a revolver with 25 bullets. She told the joint forces that Babar would have been able to say where the license was if he had not already been arrested.
Helal later listed the arms and ammunition in the presence of the joint forces and other witnesses. He also said that Babar was questioned, while on remand, about the whereabouts of the legal documents for the revolver and its ammunition, but he could neither produce any documents nor give any satisfactory answer about the illegal arms.
On June 23 sub-inspector Kabir Ahmed of the Gulshan thana pressed charges against Babar, naming 16 people as witnesses, and also submitted the charge-sheet to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Dhaka.
The case was later transferred to Judge Syed Zahed Manzur’s court for trial, and the court framed the arms charges against Babar on July 25. After examining the records and statements of 14 witnesses, Manzur pronounced the judgment in a packed courtroom.
Babar was brought to the court in an ambulance amidst tight security. He has been under treatment in the prison cell of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib University Hospital since his arrest.
Babar, who sat on the back-bench of the courtroom, did not comment on the judgment. After some time he was escorted by policemen from the court and sent back to the hospital.
“The case was proved as 14 witnesses in their deposition confirmed to the court that the arms and ammo were recovered from Babar’s possession,” Kabir Hussain told newsmen.
Defence lawyer Abdullah Mahmud Hasan, expressing dissatisfaction at the verdict, told reporters that he has suggested that his client should file an appeal with the High Court against the judgment, and expressed the hope that Babar would be acquitted by the higher court.