MOTIUR RAHMAN NIZAMI, 70, ACCUSED OF INVOLVEMENT IN 2004 ARMS SMUGGLING RACKET
CHITTAGONG, Jan 31 — A Bangladesh court sentenced Thursday the leader of the country’s largest Islamic party and 13 others to death over a huge 2004 arms smuggling racket, sparking fears of new political unrest.
Motiur Rahman Nizami, 70, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was convicted and sentenced over the racket involving 10 truckloads of arms seized by police a decade ago at a Bangladesh port.
“We’re satisfied with the verdict. This is an unprecedented case and all those accused have got due justice,” prosecutor Kamal Uddin Ahmed told AFP from the southern port city of Chittagong.
Prosecutors said Nizami, who was industries minister at the time, helped unload the weapons at the port that included 4,930 firearms and 27,020 grenades destined for a rebel group across the border in northeast India.
Nizami, who has led Jamaat for more than a decade, was among 50 people charged with smuggling, arms possession and other offenses over the cache thought to be the largest haul in Bangladesh history.
Among the 14 sentenced to death on Thursday over their roles was ex-Home Minister Lotfuzzaman Babar, former chiefs of the country’s two main intelligence agencies and other officials in the then government.
One of India’s most wanted men, Paresh Baruah, leader of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), was also handed the death penalty in absentia over the weapons which were meant to help his group’s decades-long separatist struggle. Baruah has long been on the run.
The crowded court witnessed emotional scenes after the verdict was handed down, with a government bureaucrat fainting, and Babar crying out “No justice!.”
“The verdict is given to make someone happy. I’ll get justice in the hereafter,” Babar yelled to the court. Security was tight in Chittagong where the judge delivered his long-awaited decision following a trial that lasted for years.