Dhaka: Paresh Barua, leader of the anti-talk faction of the ULFA, is among the 14 people awarded the death sentence by a Bangladesh court Thursday in connection with a 2004 arms smuggling case.
A special court in Chittagong handed the death sentence to Barua and 13 others, including Jamaat chief and then industries minister Motiur Rahman Nizami and then state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, for smuggling in 10 truckloads of firearms in 2004, the Daily Star reported.
"The verdict has been delivered on receiving permission from High Court division," the report quoted judge S.M Mojibur Rahman of the Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1, as saying while delivering the verdict.
The tribunal had started reading out the summary at 12.28 p.m.
A huge cache of arms was recovered April 2, 2004, at the jetty of the Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL) near the Karnaphuli river while being loaded on 10 trucks for delivery to the Indian separatist outfit ULFA.
These included 4,930 sophisticated firearms of different types, 840 rocket launchers, 300 rockets, 27,020 grenades, 2,000 grenade-launching tubes, 6,392 magazines and 11.41 million bullets.
It was the largest ever seizure of an arms consignment in the country.
Two charge-sheets in connection with the case were submitted - one in the arms case after two months and another in the smuggling case after four months.
According to the Daily Star, the trial of both the cases started in 2005 “with several loopholes as the probes overlooked some important factors such as who had brought the arms, from which country, what was the destination and how was a jetty of a state-owned body used for unloading the weapons”.
Only some small fry, mostly labourers, truckers and trawler drivers, were implicated, leaving out the big shots as the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government allegedly tried to cover up the involvement of the state machinery, including its ministers and high officials of intelligence agencies.
However, after a caretaker government took over in Bangladesh Jan 11, 2007, ahead of the country's general elections, there were new developments.
The Court of Chittagong Metropolitan Judge Feb 14, 2008, ordered further investigation following a prosecution petition and the cases took a new turn.
In June 2011, Muniruzzaman Chowdhury, senior assistant superintendent of Criminal Investigation Department, submitted two supplementary charge-sheets in June 2011, accusing 11 new suspects.
Paresh Barua was among those charged in both the cases.
While Barua and former secretary of the industries ministry Nurul Amin have been absconding ever since the recovery of the arms, the other nine are behind bars.
With the inclusion of the 11 new suspects, the number of the total accused rose to 50 and 52 in the arms and smuggling cases respectively.