DU teachers appeal against convictions
Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Campus protest 

Staff Correspondent

Three Dhaka University teachers, convicted on charge of being involved in the August 2007 campus protests and subsequently released on a presidential clemency, filed appeals on Monday challenging the convictions.

Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge Md Azizul Haque accepted the appeals and posted the hearing for April 2.

A metropolitan magistrate's court on January 22 sentenced the Dhaka University Teachers' Association president, Sadrul Amin, and the general secretary, Anwar Hossain, and the social sciences dean, Harun-or-Rashid, to imprisonment for two years each.

The applied physics and electronics department chair at the university, Neem Chandra Bhowmick, also accused in the case, was acquitted of the charges. The three teachers were released from jail the same day on a presidential clemency although no application was filed for the mercy.

As the presidential clemency is applicable only to the sentences and convictions remain in force, the verdict of the magistrate's court should be set aside, the counsels for the teachers told the court moving the appeals. The appeal should be admitted considering the consequences of the convictions, the counsels pleaded.

In their appeals, the teachers also claimed that additional chief metropolitan magistrate Golam Rabbani was biased in holding the trial as the prosecution kept the court under pressure. Twenty-six people were named as witnesses in the case, but the prosecution produced only 12 of them for cross-examinations.

'The court did not explain the failure to produce the remaining 14 witnesses in court for cross-examinations,' said the appeal filed by Anwar. The court sentenced the teachers based on the deposition made only by pro-Jamaat teacher Mizanur Rahman, who had a long feud with Anwar over the teachers' association elections, Anwar said in the appeal.

Opposing the appeals, metropolitan public prosecutor Ehsanul Haque Shamazi said the president had pardoned the convicts, who later joined office after their release, and there was no need for the appeals.

According to law, defence can appeal against the trial court's sentence if the convict is in custody or released on bail after conviction. In this case, there is no such prevalence, the public prosecutor argued.

The court cannot admit the appeals as the defence challenged the constitutional provision for the presidential clemency, the prosecutor argued, saying only the High Court could entertain such appeals.

Anwar's counsel Mannan Khan said such appeals could be filed even after presidential clemency. Sadrul's lawyer Masud Ahmed Talukdar said the verdict establishing the accused as guilty remains on record despite the presidential clemency. 'This appeal has been filed against that very verdict.'

Harun-or-Rashid's lawyer Shafiul Bashar Bhandari said, 'The conviction order, unless quashed by the court, will affect the pardoned teachers' lives and careers.' The teachers, after filing the appeals, said they wanted to prove in court that they are not guilty of the charges on which they were convicted.

The August campus protests flared off the assault of some students by some army men at the university playground during a football match between two departments on August 20, 2007. Two teachers of the university, who went to the place to tackle the situation, were also assaulted by army men of the temporary camp housed at the gymnasium.

The students then went out on demonstrations demanding withdrawal of the camp from the campus. The police then attacked the demonstrators in which a number of students and teachers, including then acting vice-chancellor, were injured. The protests flared up elsewhere, including major educational institutions in Dhaka and across the country.

The police filed at least 53 cases against the students and four Dhaka University teachers. Many other cases were filed with the police across the country in connection with the protests in other educational institutions and surroundings.

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