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Presidential clemency to 20 death convicts circumvents rule of law

Edit Date:10/15/2010 12:00:00 AM

Presidential clemency to 20 death convicts circumvents rule of law

 

The way the convicts were given hero’s welcome and public reception in the area on return home from the death cell was taken with suspicion. Again political expediency has taken over the legal system here making the judiciary a suspect. 

Faisal Rahim

President Zillur Rahman recently granted clemency to 20 convicts of death sentence in a murder case of Sabbir Hossain Gama, a political activist and nephew of a BNP leader of Natore district.
   The man was killed by a group of miscreants in a market place on February 7, 2004 and BNP leader and former deputy minister Ruhul Quddus Talukder accused Awami League leader S M Feroze and 16 others in a case initially filed in the local district court.
   It was later transferred to Speedy Trial Court in Dhaka with an extended charge sheet, largely of political nature and the trial judge finally gave death sentence to 21 accused of whom 20 are in the custody.
   With the change of vanguard at the national level that brought Awami League (AL) to power and defeat of BNP and Jamaat, politics again came to the fore to change the course of law and set these convicts free from death row.
   The rule of law thus distinctively changed the course to increasingly become a matter of convenience to support political expediency of the ruling elite. Media reports poured in abundance over the past one and a half year unveiling incidents on how the present government is withdrawing cases filed by the caretaker government and by previous BNP-Jamaat government against the leaders and workers of Awami League and its close allies.
   As news report said, previous regimes have misused power to advance their political purpose targeting many opposition leaders and workers. But it is also true that many such cases had equally strong basis of litigations requiring legal actions to punish the criminals.
   
   Several thousand cases
   News reports said the present AL government has already wantonly withdrawn several thousand cases against its leaders and workers, however under the cover of legal process.
   The home ministry is sending lists of the accused to government prosecution offices to initiate the legal process for withdrawing the cases. It is an open secret that political consideration is finding precedence over the legal merits of the case and the accused are set free from the charges denying justice to aggrieved parties at the other end, or the state in case of scandalous corruption cases.
   But recent news report said the clemency granted to the 20 death convicts was entirely on political consideration in which the President of the Republic has used his power to pardon them from the condemn cell.
   News report said the 20 death convicts had filed appeal to higher court for retrial. But the presidential clemency came at a time when the court was yet to open the retrial set for April 15, this year.
   Under the process, the convicts made the plea to the president to give them pardon saying they were victim of political vendetta. The home ministry sent an executive summary and forwarding note to President’s office suggesting that they can be set free on Presidential order. And the president acted on it setting them free.
   
   Gama’s departed soul
   The President certainly has the power in hand. But question arises: though the murderers have been set free yet how the departed soul of Gama will get peace and justice. After all he was murdered and is no more living on mother earth.
   The accused could have been set free through the legal process if they were innocent and both the rule of law and their innocence could have been saved from misunderstanding this way. Moreover the way the convicts were given hero’s welcome and public reception in the area on return home from the death cell was taken with suspicion. Again political expediency has taken over the legal system here making the judiciary a suspect.
   Moreover, latest news report said the President’s office is not having an office copy of his clemency order preserved in any dossier. This is part of the official file keeping and especially the President’s office embodying the highest seat of the state is expected in all accounts to maintain it.
   Why it is missing or not being maintained is a big question, the news report made an indirect point raising question about the transparency of the whole process and accountability of the course of law.
   Such action may keep the President’s office vulnerable to future scrutiny and the judiciary only losing credibility in the public eyes, critics say emphasizing the need for allowing the legal system to function.

Holiday: Oct 8, 2010

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