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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bangladesh's most famous hangman

It may seem an odd way to become famous, but Babul Miah has the honour of being Bangladesh's most well-known executioner, as the BBC's Ethirajan Anbarasan reports.

Mr Miah was jailed for life for committing a murder but he was released early for hanging 17 people to death inside the prison, and also for his good conduct.

Mr Miah returned to his home village of Nagor in northern Bangladesh last year after spending 22 years in prison. Though Bangladesh has dozens of hangmen, Mr Miah is considered the most famous.

In Bangladesh all hangmen are prisoners or former convicts who have trained in jail for the job.

Mr Miah is trying to rebuild his life with his family and friends in this picturesque village dotted with ponds, paddy fields and bamboo trees.

He was 17 when he was sent to prison in 1989 for a murder in his village which he says he did not commit.
"I became a hangman against my will. During my prison term the jail authorities told me that if I became a hangman, they would take two months off my sentence for every execution. 

"I wanted to get out of jail early, so I took up the offer," Mr Miah said while tending to his cattle.

New world

Bangladesh is one of the countries where convicted prisoners are still executed by hanging. 

More than 400 people have been executed since the country's independence from Pakistan in 1971. Officials say more than 1,000 prisoners are on death row.

Mr Miah was released last year as part of a general amnesty to around 1,000 prisoners in an attempt to ease overcrowding in jails. 

For Mr Miah his release after two decades was like a rebirth.

"I was overjoyed after my release. When I came through Dhaka, it looked like a new world to me. The city had changed completely. 

"When I reached my village, it was also different. I could not recognize many people and they also could not recognize me," Mr Miah recounted.

Soon after returning to his village, Mr Miah got married to a local girl, Mussammat Kobita Akther. The couple are expecting a baby.

Without a regular job, Mr Miah makes his living by working in his brother's farm and looks after cattle.
Sometimes, he works as a day labourer in neighbouring villages. He earns about 5000 takas ($70/£41) a month.

"A lot of people promised that they would give me a job or some money to start a business. But nothing has materialised. The cost of living has gone up tremendously in the last 20 years. 

"I am not sure how I will manage my family with my meagre earnings," said Mr Miah.

His wife said that initially she was a bit scared to live with someone who had hanged a number of people.
"I felt sad when I heard about his past and that he had hanged many people to death in prison. At first I was frightened. 

"Later on I realised that he was innocent and that he was simply doing his job in the jail," Ms Akther said.
"Nowadays he talks a lot about our future. He wants to give our children a good education so that they do not face hardships like him."

Mental toughness
 
Mr Miah was given special training in prison in how to hang people. He was taught how to set up the stage and attach wooden planks and the main hanging rope. 

"I was sad when I hanged a person for the first time. But it wasn't anything to do with me - the courts had rejected their appeals. 

"You cannot do the job if you show emotion or if you are not mentally strong. I had only one thing in my mind. If I do this, my jail sentence will be reduced," Mr Miah recounted.

He said he never once faltered during his 12-year tenure as a hangman in Bangladeshi jails. Even a year after his release from the prison he vividly recounted the procedures.

"Once the condemned prisoner was brought on to the stage, one of us would put the noose around his neck. At that time the convict used to shiver in fear. 

"Then I would wait for a signal from a senior jail official," Mr Miah remembered.

"When the clock struck one minute past midnight, the officer would drop a red cloth from his hand as a signal, then I would pull the lever. 

"The planks would go down and the person would be hanged. A doctor would check and pronounce him dead after 15 minutes."

Media spotlight
 
Though Mr Miah said he regretted every time he hanged someone, he was proud of one incident.
In January 2010, he was asked to hang the killers of the country's founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Mr Miah executed five former army officers for their role in the assassination of the former president in 1975.
"On that day, I was very eager to hang them because they killed the greatest leader of our country. I hanged all five of the killers. 

"If the killers were a hundred in number, I would have hanged them all, without any hesitation."
The hangings attracted nationwide attention and Mr Miah became an overnight celebrity after a local newspaper published his photograph.

A private television channel also attempted to make a programme based on his experiences in jail.
Mr Miah said life inside prisons in Bangladesh was close to hell. Overcrowding and lack of sanitation was a major problem and many prisoners suffered from skin diseases.

Bangladesh's 67 jails hold around 75,000 prisoners, at least three times their capacity. 

Activists say the jails are unhygienic, filthy and sometimes violent.

"People living outside don't know the conditions inside the prisons. We used to fight for clean water.
"There's violence, drugs and homosexuality. But the situation has improved slightly in recent years."

Mr Miah said he would not wish a jail life even for his enemies. He does not want to think about prison life any more. 

However, he is using his experience in prison to bring peace to his village.
"Whenever there is any quarrel or clashes among villagers, I go and try to settle their disputes. Most of them don't know the law. 

"I tell them: 'Look at me, a similar violent incident landed me in jail and I only came out after 22 years. Do you want to face the same fate?' Then they sit down for talks."


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Charges against Mojaheed, Kamaruzzaman returned

Quader Molla's charges taken into cognisance, order on taking Nizami's charges into cognisance Jan 9.

 

The International Crimes Tribunal Wednesday returned to the prosecution the charges of crimes against humanity brought against Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman saying that the charges were not properly arranged and classified.

The tribunal also directed the prosecution to resubmit the charges against Jamaat Secretary General Mojaheed by January 16 after rearranging those properly.

It also ordered the prosecution to reorganise the charges against the party Assistant Secretary General Kamaruzzaman and resubmit those by January 14.

Meanwhile, the three-member tribunal headed by its Chairman Justice Nizamul Huq took the charges against another Assistant Secretary General of the party Abdul Quader Molla into cognisance.

It fixed January 29 for starting the hearing on charge framing against Molla.

The court also asked the prosecution to submit relevant documents and papers relating to the charges brought against Molla to its registrar office by Sunday so that the defence could collect those for taking preparation.
The tribunal fixed January 9 for passing order on whether it will take the charges brought against Jamaat Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami into cognisance. 

During the day's hearing that started around 10:30am on Wednesday, the tribunal said it took time for examining the charges that the prosecution brought against Nizami. 

Advocate Tajul Islam, a counsel for accused Jamaat leaders, told reporters that the prosecution has brought the charges against his clients aiming to harass them politically, destroy their political careers and defeat them politically. 

Earlier in the morning, the four detained leaders were brought to the tribunal's prison for their alleged involvement with crimes against humanity which they hadcommitted during the country's Liberation War in 1971.

The prosecution submitted formal charges against Nizami, Mojaheed and Kamaruzzaman before the tribunal on December 11 while the charges against Quader Molla were submitted on December 18. 

The tribunal is also scheduled to hold cross-examination of sixth prosecution witness Manik Poshari against another Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee relating to his involvement in crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War. 

Jail authorities are supposed to produce Sayedee before the tribunal on Wednesday in this connection.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Japan relaxes arms export ban

Japan plans to relax its ban on arms exports so it can jointly develop and produce such arms with other nations, the government's top spokesman said Tuesday.

Osamu Fujimura said in a statement relaxation of the country's longstanding weapons export ban would enable Japan to provide equipment for humanitarian purposes and keep up with the current global environment on weapons production, Kyodo News reported.

The statement, however, noted the government would uphold the principle of Japan being a pacifist nation and avoid international conflicts.

Fujimura's statement was issued after the Security Council of Japan, chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, decided to relax the rules, Kyodo reported.

Fujimura told reporters the government would be "cautious" when dealing with cases that do not fall under its current exceptions.

Under those exceptions, Japan cannot sell weapons to communist states, countries subject to U.N. embargoes or countries involved in international conflicts.

Under the new rules, Japan can participate in joint efforts with friendly nations such as the United States, the report said. Currently, the United States and Europe conduct joint development or production of high-tech weapons such as fighters to cut costs and improve quality.

CPB, LDP want caretaker restoration

Communist Party of Bangladesh and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) demanded restoration of the caretaker government system on Tuesday, saying it is a must for credible parliamentary elections.

The two political parties made the recommendation when their delegations met President Zillur Rahman at his official residence Bangabhaban to place their suggestions on formation of a new Election Commission.

During their nearly one-hour talks starting from around 11:00am, a nine-member delegation of LDP heade
d by its Chairman Col (retd) Oli Ahmed said merely a reconstituted EC will not be able to ensure a fair election without the reinstatement of the CG system.

The delegation suggested formation of a 'strong legal framework' for constituting an Election Commission instead of the traditional one.

As per the constitution, the president appoints the chief election commissioner and other commissions in consultation with the prime minister.

The party also informed the president about the government's ongoing crackdown on opposition activists and demanded immediate end of the repression.

When the president asked the LDP for the names of proposed CEC and other commissioners, Oli Ahmed said they want a decision on the CG first. 

A 12-member delegation of the CPB led by its president, Manjurul Ahsan Khan, also held nearly an hour-long meeting from 12:10pm with the president and stressed the need for restoration of the CG system to make the next general election credible. 

They also suggested the government enact a law in line with the constitution to appoint the CEC and other commissioners.

When the president asked them to suggest names for the post of the CEC and other commissioners, the CPB chief said they gave a proposal to him to pick those people for the posts who will be credible to all political parties. 

In reply, Zillur Rahman termed their proposals logical and requested them to send their suggestions in a written form. 

On Monday, the president held talks with two separate delegations of Workers Party and Jatiya Party-JP (JP-Manju) and told them that he will ask the government to enact a law in line with the constitution that will require formation of a "search committee" to find appropriate persons from among whom the chief election commissioner and the other election commissioners will be appointed.

While holding talks with Workers Party, a component of AL-led grand alliance, and JP-Manju at Bangabhaban, the president however said enacting the proposed law is a time consuming matter, meeting sources said.

During the talks, Zillur Rahman urged the leaders of the two parties to submit names of "honest, patriotic, competent and democratic minded" persons to him, who could be appointed as the CEC and other election commissioners.

On Thursday the president held the first round of talks with HM Ershad-led Jatiya Party, and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal. He sought names from them also.

On expiry of the tenure of the present EC in early February, the president, on advice of the prime minister, will have to appoint a chief election commissioner and other election commissioners to form the new EC.

Against such a backdrop, the president started the talks with political parties on December 22, seeking their opinion on the matter.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Workers Party for rules on EC formation

Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon on Monday urged President Zillur Rahman to formulate rules for appointing a new Election Commission.

Meanwhile, Anwar Hossain Manju-led Jatiya Party (JP-Manju) stressed the need for immediate constitution of a new Election Commission to continue the democratic trend. 

A 12-member delegation of JP-Manju told this to reporters emerging from a meeting held with the president at his residential office. 

During the meeting, the party also assured the president to provide the names of persons 'eligible and accepted by all' for the new EC. 

Earlier in the morning, another eight-man delegation of Workers Party headed by its President Rashed Khan Menon held dialogues with the president for about one hour and a half on the same issue.

“Our proposals were very specific that the president can appoint the chief election commissioner and other commissioners as per Article 118 of the Constitution,” Menon told reporters at Bangabhaban after a discussion with the president.

Menon said the president could either promulgate an ordinance about the rules for appointing the election commissioners according to Article 118 of the Constitution or the Parliament could pass a law in this regard.
As per the rules, he said the president would form a 'search committee' with people holding constitutional posts including the chief justice, chairman of Public Service Commission and comptroller and audit general.
The 'search committee' would select three men against the post of election commissioner and send the probable names to an all-party parliamentary committee, he added.

Menon said the parliamentary business committee will finalise the names after scrutiny of the list and then it will forward a shortlist to the president, who will appoint the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners.

Replying to a question, he said the president sought from them probable names of the commissioners and they told him that the names would be sent later.

About the BNP’s reluctance to join the dialogue with the president, Menon said main opposition BNP should provide their opinions and also explain why they would not attend the dialogue. 

“The country can’t remain still. They can discuss their issues in Parliament,” he said.

Describing the dialogue as fruitful, the Workers Party chief thanked the president for opening such dialogue on the appointment of the EC. “The president’s dialogue is a positive sign. All parties should accept it.”

An eight-member Workers Party delegation, led by Rashed Khan Menon, sat in the dialogue with the president at Bangabhaban around 11:00am. 

Welcoming the delegation, President Zillur Rahman said he called for the dialogue as he wants to take the decision on appointing the next EC after discussions with the country’s main political parties.

He mentioned that the tenure of the present EC will expire on February 14 next year and said that hopefully, such discussions will play an important role in forming the new EC.

'Anonymous' hackers hit US security firm Stratfor

The activist hacker group Anonymous says it has stolen thousands of emails, passwords and credit card details from a US-based security think-tank.


The hackers claim they were able to obtain the information because the company, Stratfor, did not encrypt it.
They say Stratfor's clients include the US defence department, law enforcement agencies and media organisations.

The Austin-based company says it has now suspended the operation on its servers and email.

An alleged member of Anonymous posted an online message, claiming that the group had used Stratfor clients' credit card details to make "over a million dollars" in donations to different charities. 

Stratfor later announced that it would keep its email and servers suspended for some time.

It also said the disclosure was "merely a list of some of the members that have purchased our publications and does not comprise a list of individuals or entities that have a relationship with Stratfor".

Anonymous has previously claimed responsibility for cyber attacks on financial institutions seen as enemies of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Last respects for Razzak at Shaheed Minar

Central Shaheed Minar area has turned into a human sea as thousands of people including the leaders and activists of different political, social and cultural organisations thronged there Sunday afternoon to pay their last respects to Liberation War hero Abdur Razzak. 

The body of the veteran Awami League leader was taken to the Shaheed Minar around 4:30pm after his second namaz-e-janaza at Jatiya Eidgah Maidan in the city. 

His first janaza was held at the South Plaza of the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban earlier in the afternoon.
A smartly turned out contingent drawn from three services of the armed forces gave him a guard of honour following his janaza.

Earlier, a flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying his body from the United Kingdom touched the runway of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 12:30pm Sunday, Awami League Central Working Committee Member Sujit Roy Nandi told The Daily Star.

His family members including his wife Farida Razzak and son Nahin Razzak were with the body.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Faruk Khan, senior Awami League leaders - Amir Hossain Amu, Abdul Jalil, Tofail Ahmed, Suranjit Sengupta and Sheikh Fajlul Karim Selim -- as well as the leaders of the 14-party grand alliance including Rashed Khan Menon and Hasanul Haque Inu -- among others received Razzak's body at the airport.

An ambulance carrying his body drove straight to his Gulshan residence from the airport.
President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid their last tributes to the veteran leader at his residence.

The president placed wreaths on Razzak's coffin, offered prayers and also talked to the bereaved family members.

The premier also placed a floral wreath on the coffin of Razzak and stood in solemn silence for some time beside it as a mark of respect to the late leader.

Hasina talked to Razzak's wife and other relatives and consoled them.
She also prayed to the Almighty for the eternal peace of the departed soul.

Razzak, a key organiser of the Liberation War of Bangladesh and also a member of the ruling Awami League advisory council, breathed his last at a London hospital Friday, ending his around 50-year long illustrious political career. He was 69.

Razzak, who was considered “living history” of the birth of Bangladesh, was suffering from kidney and liver ailments and had been undergoing treatment at King's College Hospital in London since September.
His body will be taken to his village home at Damuday in Shariatpur by helicopter at 10:00am Monday and then flown back to Dhaka after a third namaj-e-janaza at Damuday.

The leader will be laid to eternal rest at the Banani Graveyard in the capital at 4:00pm Monday.
Meanwhile, the Awami League has taken up a two-day programme starting from Sunday, expressing shock at Razzak's demise and paying rich tribute to the popular politician.

As part of the programme, the leaders and workers of the party will wear a black badge in mourning for two days while the party flag will be kept at half-mast and black flags will be hoisted at its offices across the country.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

BSF building wall violating border rules

Indian Border Security Force is constructing a wall close to the border line in Senarbadi village of the district's Akhaura to protect a road they built there illegally.

About a year ago, BSF started constructing the 1,060 metre road from pillar 2305/S to 2401/S, according to Sarail 12 Battalion of Border Guard Bangladesh.

Now the Indian paramilitary force is building the wall in clear violation of the international law that allows no structure within 150 yards of the zero line.

Earlier, as BGB protested the wall construction, the Indian side said they would stop piling of earth. But the work continued in the dark of night. 

Several flag meetings were held on the issue. 

In one of the meetings, the Indian force assured BGB of not using this road. But for the last few days, Indian tractors loaded with bricks, cement bags are driving along the dirt road to border pillar 2024. 

The Indian authorities are gathering construction materials close to the zero line and even inside Bangladesh territory. They are digging deep the ground and making big holes to construct the 2-3 feet high wall up to the level of the road. A few border pillars have sunk into earth.

One BGB official seeking anonymity has said the Indian side may have an ill-motive to construct a boundary wall.

BGB office sources have said the high officials of both countries have agreed that retaining wall could be built within 16 feet of zero line to protect a boundary pillar that falls in any water body. 

Contacted, Lieutenant Colonel Mustafizur Rahman, commanding officer of Sarail 12 battalion, said they earlier had sent BSF a message requesting not to erect any boundary wall there and held a battalion commander level meeting on December 21. In the meeting, the BSF agreed that they would not erect any wall above the ground level.

BGB is always watching if BSF violates any treaty or border rules, the CO added. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

JP, JSD for body to find new commissioners

The Jatiya Party (JP) and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) have suggested formation of two separate committees to identify eligible persons to form a new Election Commission. 

The Jatiya Party, which was the first to join the dialogue with President Zillur Rahman over the issue, suggested formation of a ‘search committee’ while JSD for a 'nomination committee'.

Ershad led a 16-member JP delegation at the meeting with President Zillur Rahman that began at 11:00am.

“We proposed for a search committee. But we did not suggest any specific name for formation of the Election Commission,” JP Chairman HM Ershad told reporters Thursday emerging from dialogue with the president at Bangabhaban.

The party only suggested that the members of the 'search committee' might be picked up from among those who are on different constitutional bodies, he added.

The chief justice, auditor general, and the chairman of the Public Service Commission might be the member of the search committee, Ershad suggested.

The party will send a written statement on its proposals to the president in two or three days, he added.
Asked about main opposition BNP’s reluctance to join the ongoing dialogue, he replied: “A country will wait for none.” 

Meanwhile, JSD President Hasanul Haque Inu, who led an 11-member delegation at the dialogue, said they had also suggested formation of a committee, which could consist of 10 members, styled as ‘Nomination Committee’.

"We proposed the president would form the nomination committee,” Inu told reporters after the meeting that began in the noon and continued for about an hour.

The main task of the committee will be to suggest names of eligible persons and send those to an all-party parliamentary select committee for scrutiny. After the scrutiny, the select committee will send those to president for formation of a new EC, he added. 

On query, whether it suggested any name, Inu said they will send a list of names within a day or two. 

About BNP's stance, Inu said, “The party has been hatching conspiracy instead of practicing democracy.”

The president took the move to seek opinions of the country's political parties on formation of a new Election Commission as the incumbent Election Commission’s tenure is going to expire by mid-February.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Objective journalism to bring positive changes stressed

Eminent citizens and editors of different national dailies yesterday stressed the need for maintaining maximum impartiality and objectivity to take the level of journalism to new heights for bringing a positive change in the society.

They said modesty, honesty and cautiousness are the prime prerequisite for objective journalism. On the other, arrogance, dishonesty or callousness are harmful not only for one's journalism career but also for the society, they added.

They made the remark at the closing session of a 10-day training for the journalists of upcoming private TV channel, Ekattor, at the city's Chhayanaut Sangskriti Bhaban auditorium.

Noted litterateur Selina Hossain urged the young journalists to play a significant role in bringing political, economical and social stability through their work.

"Your (journalists) reports should be prepared on the basis of correct information and truth," she said.
She also criticised a few TV and FM radio channels for using "unnecessary" English words and programme titles.

The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said relationship between journalists and media owners should be kept transparent.

The objective journalism can be ensured if journalists get environment of working independently, he said.
Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman emphasised proper selection of words, sentences and language for development of journalism.

Journalist Abed Khan, also editor of the upcoming Dainik Jagoron, said the main responsibility of a journalist is to present the event instead of making judgement.

Talking about commercialisation of journalism, he said, "Now corporate business companies are opening print and electronic media to secure their business purpose only."

The News Today Editor Reazuddin Ahmed said the main challenge of electronic media is to serve the news within a few minutes after happening any incident. So, journalists of electronic media should be more careful.

Ekattor Managing Director and Chief Editor Mozammel Babu and Chief Executive Officer Samia Zaman also spoke at the function.

Two internationally renowned journalists Richard Goslan and Bob Powel conducted the training sessions.

Faulty seats of Palki being replaced

The economy-class seats of Palki, Biman's new Boeing 777-300ER that began commercial operation last month, are being replaced as their armrests started falling apart.

US company Weber had supplied the seats of the aircraft. It is now replacing the armrests in the economy class at its own cost during flight breaks at Shahjalal International Airport. The replacement will take a few more days.

Biman authorities said faulty design of the seats is causing the trouble. Sources said around 50 out of 384 seats in the economy class got broken. The seats in the business class are, however, in good shape. 

Air Commodore (retd) Mohammad Zakiul Islam, managing director of Bangladesh Biman, told The Daily Star last week that the seats were procured following a meeting of Biman, Boeing and Weber.

Asked if the US company was selected arbitrarily to save money, he said, "There was no scope for buying the seats from a company which is not approved by Boeing." 

Meanwhile, some more complaints have also surfaced regarding the remote controls of movie screens and the galley of the $ 152 million aircraft. The Biman MD, however, refuted the complaints.

ARUN ALO

The other new Boeing 777-300ER named Arun Alo commenced its commercial flight on Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur course on December 5, almost 10 days after it had arrived in Shah Jalal airport. 

Biman had to suffer a huge loss due to this wait as it could not get the go-ahead from the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh. This is because Biman could not obtain the custom clearance certificate for its failure to pay the Tk 80 lakh duty.

Officials said the state-owned airlines needs to pay Tk 20 crore as instalment every month to repay the bank loan for Arun Alo.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SQ Chy's petitions rejected

International Crimes Tribunal on Monday rejected six petitions of BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. 

The three-member tribunal headed by its Chairman Justice Nizamul Huq rejected his first petition for continuing the trial proceedings against him under the Evidence Act, 1972 and CrPC Act, 1898. 

The court said the tribunal has been formed under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 and the trial proceedings will be continued under it.

It also rejected his another petition seeking tribunal’s permission for engaging foreign lawyers as consultants to defend him saying that Bangladesh Bar Council does not allow it.

But the court will consider it if the bar council gives permission in this regard, it said. 

“Defence and prosecution can seek advice from foreign lawyers outside the tribunal, if they want,” the tribunal added.

About Salauddin’s petition for live broadcasting the trial against him on electronic media, the tribunal said there is no such example in the world’s history.

The tribunal also rejected his another petitions seeking 11 months time for taking preparation for the case and for a clear definition of 'crimes against humanity' in the rules of procedure.

Rejecting Salauddin’s petition for following the international covenant, the tribunal said it will only follow the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act.

After the court started around 10:40am, Mohammad Badiuzzaman, a Supreme Court lawyer who has been appoint by the ICT to represent Salauddin, submit a petition before the tribunal for meeting with his client.
The tribunal accepted his petition and asked him fixed a convenient time and informed. The tribunal will consider it, the court said.

Prosecutors on November 15 submitted formal charges against detained Salauddin to the tribunal, citing his involvement in 24 incidents of crime against humanity.

Killings on Border : Dhaka lodges protests, BSF regrets

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) yesterday regretted the deaths of four Bangladeshi nationals along the borders on Friday and Saturday. 
 Meanwhile, Bangladesh lodged a strong protest with the Indian authorities condemning the killings and called for an inquiry.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) Director General Maj Gen Anwar Hossain yesterday told The Daily Star: “In the morning (yesterday), when I contacted the BSF chief over the phone he expressed his sorrow and said it is unexpected.”

He added that the BSF chief had also sent a high profile team to the spots in Indian territory to investigate the incidents.

The killings took place in the border areas of Dinajpur, Kurigram and Meherpur districts -- three of them were killed in Indian territory and another in Bangladesh.

The bodies were handed over to the BGB yesterday and Saturday.

A foreign ministry official yesterday said the government in a letter expressed its disappointment that the incidents took place despite firm assurances from the highest level of the Indian government against recurrence of border killings.

It also urged India to take necessary steps to stop recurrence of such incidents.

Contacted, a competent official at the Indian High Commission in Dhaka last night told The Daily Star that no official statement was received by then from the Indian government in this regard.

Elizabeth Taylor Christie's auction fetches $150m

A four-day New York auction of the belongings of Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor has fetched more than $150m, with one leather-bound film script selling for 50 times its estimate.


The late actor's script of The National Velvet, her first big film, sold for $170,000 at the Christie's auction.
Earlier in the week, one of her necklaces featuring a 16th Century pearl sold for a record $11.8m (£7.6m).

The star of Cleopatra died in Los Angeles in March at the age of 79. 

Christie's chairman Marc Porter described the response to the sale as "nothing short of overwhelming with multiple bidders competing for every lot".

Part of the proceeds will go to The Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, which she established in 1991.


The "Collection of Elizabeth Taylor" auction concluded on Friday night after four days of sales of jewellery, haute couture, furniture and memorabilia. 

An online-only auction of some 1,000 items from the actress's estate finishes later on Saturday.
The Hollywood legend was renowned for her love of diamonds and emeralds - and received many as gifts from her twice husband Richard Burton.


Dell to invest for long term

“Dell believes that Bangladesh is one of the key emerging economies in Asia, and we intend to invest here for the long term”, said Harjeet Rekhi, Dell's general manager for the Developing Markets Group in South Asia.

Rekhi said this during a press meet to share Dell's strategy to deliver solutions that help customers navigate the ever-changing IT environment and make the most out of their IT investments in the virtual era. 

He also highlighted Dell's commitment to strengthen its channel partner network in Bangladesh and grow the company's presence in the enterprise, consumer and public sector segments.

“As an end-to-end IT solutions provider, Dell is uniquely positioned to provide customers with full-suite solutions to help them manage their IT infrastructure from end user device to the data-centre to the cloud. Dell is committed to bringing our comprehensive offerings to customers in Bangladesh and working hard to be their trusted IT advisor,” said Rekhi.

He further said the company is strategically working with its channel partners, who play a significant role in Dell's effort to deliver technology and ensure that their customers are well-ahead of the game instead of simply `keeping up'. 

This includes providing them with advice on designing, implementing, testing and running IT infrastructures that are dramatically more cost effective, energy efficient and scalable. 

The consumer segment is also a key to the company's growth plans in Bangladesh. Rekhi said Dell aims to deliver great computing experience to customers with its wide range of products and solutions designed for the user segment such as Gen-Y and students, families with kids, and mobile professionals.

At the meet, Rekhi informed that Dell now has the strongest portfolio of IT solutions in the company's history.
He said the company sees value in driving the business around solutions and services -- that support its broader strategy to penetrate the mid to large enterprise segment -- with a much higher ingredient of intellectual property.

Russia oil rig capsizes off Sakhalin, dozens missing

At least two people have died and more than 50 are missing after an oil drilling rig sank in freezing seas in the Russian far east.


The Kolskaya rig was being towed some 200km (125 miles) off Sakhalin island when it capsized in a fierce storm.

Fourteen people have been rescued but it is feared the rig overturned before the rest of the 67 people on board could escape on to life rafts.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by poor weather conditions.

Helicopters and a plane helped scour the area amid high winds and waves of up to 12ft (4m) but the search was halted as night fell.

Empty life rafts
 
"According to reports from the scene of the rescue operation, the Kolskaya platform has sunk completely," the regional head of the emergencies ministry, Taimuraz Kasayev, told a news briefing.

The accident in temperatures of -17C at around 14:00 local time (0200 GMT) in the Sea of Okhotsk happened as the rig was being towed from the eastern peninsula of Kamchatka to Sakhalin.

An unnamed regional emergencies ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency that the portholes of the rig had been "damaged by ice and waves, and water began going into the vessel".

He said the crew had been waiting to be evacuated by helicopter but the platform capsized and sank before they could get to their rescue rafts.

Two out of the four life rafts were reportedly found with nobody on board.

The spokesman confirmed to AFP that 14 people had been rescued but were in a serious condition, and two bodies "without signs of life" had been spotted by rescue workers who are "trying to pull them out".

An investigation has been launched to decide whether any safety regulations were violated transporting the Kolskaya in bad weather. 

The rig, operated by Russian exploration firm Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka, was not involved in any drilling work at the time, and there is no danger of any oil spill, Russian officials said.

Egypt troops, protesters clash again, widening rifts

Protesters and troops fought in Cairo on Sunday, the third day of clashes that have killed 10 people and exposed rifts over the army's role as it manages Egypt's promised transition from military to civilian rule.



Troops have set up barriers on streets around Tahrir Square, the hub of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and now again convulsed by violence as protesters demand that the generals who took charge in February quit power.

Soldiers in riot gear were filmed on Saturday beating protesters with long sticks even after they had fallen to the ground. A Reuters picture showed two soldiers dragging a woman lying on the ground by her shirt, exposing her underwear.

The violence has overshadowed a staggered parliamentary election, the first free vote most Egyptians can remember, that is set to give Islamists the biggest bloc.

Some Egyptians are enraged by the army's behavior. Others want to focus on voting, not street protests.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will retain power even after the lower house vote is completed in January, but has pledged to hand over to an elected president by July.

"The army council must go," said a protester with a bandaged head, who gave his name as Mohamed, after another night of clashes between soldiers and activists who had stayed in Tahrir.

Nearby dozens of youths hurled rocks at troops behind a barrier of barbed wire and metal sheets.
"It's cat-and-mouse. The army raid and retreat," protester Mostafa Fahmy said by telephone, shortly before dawn.

A hardcore of activists have camped in Tahrir since a protest against army rule on November 18 that was sparked by the army-backed cabinet's proposals to permanently shield the military from civilian oversight in the new constitution.

Bouts of violence since then, including a flare-up last month that killed 42, have deepened frustrations of many other Egyptians, who want an end to protests. They see the military as the only force capable of restoring stability.

Hundreds of protesters were in Tahrir in the early morning, some huddled round fires to keep warm in the chill air after troops had burned down their tents the day before.

Reuters television footage showed one soldier in a line of charging troops firing a shot at fleeing protesters on Saturday, though it was not clear whether he was using live rounds.
The army said it does not use live ammunition. It has also said troops had tackled only "thugs," not protesters.

'ATTACK ON THE REVOLUTION'

Protesters and soldiers have hurled rocks at each other. Some demonstrators have also lobbed petrol bombs at army lines. A building with historic archives was gutted by a fire.

Health Minister Fouad el-Nawawy told local television 10 people had been killed, most of them on Friday or early on Saturday, and 441 wounded. State media said at least 200 people had been taken to hospital.
Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, 78, said 30 security guards outside parliament had been hurt and 18 people wounded by gunshots. He blamed violence on youths among the protesters.

"What is happening in the streets today is not a revolution, rather it is an attack on the revolution," the army-appointed premier said.

The army says it has sought to separate protesters and troops to quell the violence. On one of the main streets leading from Tahrir to the cabinet and parliament, where violence has been fiercest, the army has erected a wall of concrete blocks.

State media have gave conflicting accounts of what sparked the violence. They quoted some people saying a man went into the parliament compound to retrieve a mis-kicked football, but was harassed and beaten by police and guards. Others said the man had prompted scuffles by trying to set up camp in the compound.
The latest bloodshed began after the second round of voting last week for parliament's lower house. The staggered election began on November 28 and will end with a run-off vote on January 11.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties repressed in the 30-year Mubarak era have emerged as strong front-runners.

Referring to the Cairo clashes, the Brotherhood said the military must apologize for the "crime that has been committed"

In a statement, the army council "expressed its regret about events" on Friday, but stopped short of an apology.


More than 50 "Occupy" protesters arrested in New York

More than 50 anti-Wall Street protesters were arrested on Saturday after they tried to climb over a chain-link fence around a church parking lot in a bid to establish a new encampment.


The demonstrators had used a wooden ladder to scale a chain-link fence into the lot owned by Trinity Church, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman said.

Police had no immediate figure on how many people were taken into custody, but Gideon Oliver, president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, put the number at about 55, including between five and 10 members of the clergy.

The remaining demonstrators marched through Manhattan's streets toward the house of the Trinity Church rector, but were turned away by police.

Later, as they started to move toward Midtown, some of the demonstrators were hemmed in by lines of police, and police on motorcycles tried to disperse protesters who were in the middle of streets.
"We are unstoppable. Another world is possible," and "Whose street? Our street," were among the chants from the protesters, who blocked some streets as they marched.

The remainder of the group, several dozen protesters, held signs in Times Square into the evening.
Trinity Church's rector, James H. Cooper, issued a statement on the church's website saying: "We are saddened that OWS protesters chose to ignore yesterday's messages" from several Episcopal and Anglican church leaders, including South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu.

The messages discouraged trespassing on Trinity Church property and called attention to several ways in which the church was providing support to Occupy Wall Street and working for economic change.
Cooper said the vacant church lot the OWS wanted to move into "has no facilities to sustain a winter encampment. In good conscience and faith, we strongly believe" erecting a camp there "would be wrong, unsafe, unhealthy, and potentially injurious."

The Occupy movement began with protesters taking over a park in New York in September to draw attention to economic inequality and a financial system they say is unfairly skewed toward the wealthy.
In ensuing months the protests and encampments spread to cities throughout the United States as well as to some in other countries.

But Occupy camps in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a number of other major cities were shut down in recent weeks in operations that resulted in hundreds of arrests and have raised questions about the movement's future.

Authorities have justified their moves against the camps on a variety of grounds, including that the camps were causing sanitation problems and were dangerous to public safety.


Last U.S. troops leave Iraq, ending war

The last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq on Sunday, ending nearly nine years of war that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and left a country grappling with political uncertainty.


The war launched in March 2003 with missiles striking Baghdad to oust President Saddam Hussein closes with a fragile democracy still facing insurgents, sectarian tensions and the challenge of defining its place in an Arab region in turmoil.

The final column of around 100 mostly U.S. military MRAP armored vehicles carrying 500 U.S. troops trundled across the southern Iraq desert from their last base through the night and daybreak along an empty highway to the Kuwaiti border.

Honking their horns, the last batch of around 25 American military trucks and tractor trailers carrying Bradley fighting vehicles crossed the border early Sunday morning, their crews waving at fellow troops along the route.

"I just can't wait to call my wife and kids and let them know I am safe," Sgt. First Class Rodolfo Ruiz said as the border came into sight. Soon afterwards, he told his men the mission was over, "Hey guys, you made it."
For U.S. President Barack Obama, the military pullout is the fulfillment of an election promise to bring troops home from a conflict inherited from his predecessor, the most unpopular war since Vietnam and one that tainted America's standing worldwide.

For Iraqis, though, the U.S. departure brings a sense of sovereignty tempered by nagging fears their country may slide once again into the kind of sectarian violence that killed many thousands of people at its peak in 2006-2007.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government still struggles with a delicate power-sharing arrangement between Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni parties, leaving Iraq vulnerable to meddling by Sunni Arab nations and Shi'ite Iran.

The intensity of violence and suicide bombings has subsided. But a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency and rival Shi'ite militias remain a threat, carrying out almost daily attacks, often on Iraqi government and security officials.
Iraq says its forces can contain the violence but they lack capabilities in areas such as air defense and intelligence gathering. A deal for several thousand U.S. troops to stay on as trainers fell apart over the sensitive issue of legal immunity.

For many Iraqis, security remains a worry - but no more than jobs and getting access to power in a country whose national grid provides only a few hours of electricity a day despite the OPEC country's vast oil potential.

U.S. and foreign companies are already helping Iraq develop the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, but its economy needs investment in all sectors, from hospitals to infrastructure.

"We don't think about America... We think about electricity, jobs, our oil, our daily problems," said Abbas Jaber, a government employee in Baghdad. "They (Americans) left chaos."

GOING HOME

After Obama announced in October that troops would come home by the end of the year as scheduled, the number of U.S. military bases was whittled down quickly as hundreds of troops and trucks carrying equipment headed south to Kuwait.

U.S. forces, which had ended combat missions in 2010, paid $100,000 a month to tribal sheikhs to secure stretches of the highways leading south to reduce the risk of roadside bombings and attacks on the last convoys.

Only around 150 U.S. troops will remain in the country attached to a training and cooperation mission at the huge U.S. embassy on the banks of the Tigris river.

At the height of the war, more than 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq at more than 500 bases. By Saturday, there were fewer than 3,000 troops, and one base - Contingency Operating Base Adder, 300 km (185 miles) south of Baghdad.

At COB Adder, as dusk fell before the departure of the last convoy, soldiers slapped barbecue sauce on slabs of ribs brought from Kuwait and laid them on grills beside hotdogs and sausages.

Earlier, 25 soldiers sat on folding chairs in front of two armored vehicles watching a five-minute ceremony as their brigade's flags were packed up for the last time before loading up their possessions and lining up their trucks.

The last troops flicked on the lights studding their MRAP vehicles and stacked flak jackets and helmets in neat piles, ready for the final departure for Kuwait and then home.

"A good chunk of me is happy to leave. I spent 31 months in this country," said Sgt. Steven Schirmer, 25, after three tours of Iraq since 2007. "It almost seems I can have a life now, though I know I am probably going to Afghanistan in 2013. Once these wars end I wonder what I will end up doing."

NEIGHBOURS KEEP WATCH

Iran and Turkey, major investors in Iraq, will be watching with Gulf nations to see how their neighbor handles its sectarian and ethnic tensions, as the crisis in Syria threatens to spill over its borders.

The fall of Saddam allowed the long-suppressed Shi'ite majority to rise to power. The Shi'ite-led government has drawn the country closer to Iran and Syria's Bashar al-Assad, who is struggling to put down a nine-month-old uprising.

Iraq's Sunni minority is chafing under what it sees as the increasingly authoritarian control of Maliki's Shi'ite coalition. Some local leaders are already pushing mainly Sunni provinces to demand more autonomy from Baghdad.

The main Sunni political bloc Iraqiya said on Saturday that it was temporarily suspending its participation in the parliament to protest against what it said was Maliki's unwillingness to deliver on power-sharing.

A dispute between the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Maliki's central government over oil and territory is also brewing, and is a potential flashpoint after the buffer of the American military presence is gone.
"There is little to suggest that Iraq's government will manage, or be willing, to get itself out of the current stalemate," said Gala Riani, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.

"The perennial divisive issues that have become part of the fabric of Iraqi politics, such as divisions with Kurdistan and Sunni suspicions of the government, are also likely to persist."


BNP hand in 'mystery killings': Hasina

Launching a counter-attack on the main opposition, the prime minister has blamed the alliance of main opposition BNP and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami for all the 'mystery killings' and other disruptive activities across the country.

"Not only to protect the war criminals, the BNP-Jamaat alliance is also carrying out these mystery killings, murders and other criminal activities to destabilise the country," Sheikh Hasina said criticising the opposition.

"They will first kill and start crying — this is their characteristic."

Her remarks came on Saturday at a discussion in the city's Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, following concerns expressed by various rights organisations, including the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), over the recent incidents of alleged abduction and what the opposition party calls 'extrajudicial killings'.

The prime minister also warned those who want to protect the war criminals by saying that they would also be tried.

She urged everyone in favour of the trials to raise awareness on the matter.

"Everyone needs to be united, so that no Razakar or Al-Badr comes to power again and plays with the people's fate," she told the discussion.

Ruling party presidium member and parliament deputy leader Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury presided over the programme organised by Awami League as part of the 40th Victory Day celebrations.

Hasina said, "We have executed the trial and the verdict in the Bangabandhu assassination case. The trial of the war criminals will also be held in the same fashion."

Referring to opposition leader Khaleda Zia, she said, "The one carrying out movements, strikes, long marches to protect the war criminals even gave Bangladesh's flag in their hands … what more can be expected of such a person?"

BNP chief Khaleda has long been demanding the release of the seven BNP-Jamaat leaders, who were arrested on charges of committing war crimes. She has also written to the UN secretary-general about her reservations on the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) trying the war crimes.

Top five Jamaat leaders — party chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mojaheed, executive council leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee, assistant secretaries general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Molla — who are charged with war crimes have been arrested and their trial is underway.

Senior BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was also arrested on similar charges, while another charged with war crimes Abdul Alim, a former minister in late president Ziaur Rahman's cabinet, is on conditional bail.

Saying Bangladesh is yet to reach the desired destination even after 40 years of independence, Hasina said, "The query 'why it did not happen?' must be answered by those — Zia (Ziaur Rahman), Ershad (A H M Ershad) and Khaleda Zia — who were in power for 28 years after the independence."

"The people want to know how they became rich overnight and what people got in those 28 years."

Talking about the killing of Jessore BNP leader Nazmul Islam, she said that BNP is behind the mystery killings, murders and conspiracies.

The latest victim of "mystery killings" is Jessore BNP leader Nazmul Islam, whose body was found in Gazipur on Dec 15 – a day after he was abducted from the capital's Mohammadpur area while returning home from a wedding.

In some recent cases, the victims were picked up by people in the guise of law enforcers, especially acting as Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel, and later their bodies were recovered from various areas.

Amid protests and criticisms, the law enforcement agencies have been denying the allegations.

According to NHRC, at least 27 people have gone missing during the recent part. Bodies of several victims were found later.

The uncanny part, says the opposition party, is that many victims were BNP local-level leaders or activists. Among them was Ismail Hossain, a leader of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, the pro-BNP student body.

A former president of Chhatra Dal's ward-50 unit in Dhaka, Ismail went "missing" on Nov 28. His body was recovered, along with two others, from Dhalehswari river near Munshiganj on Dec 8.

Chhatra Dal members alleged that law enforcers had picked up the organisation's three leaders, including Ismail, from the capital's Hatirpul area. While Islamil's body surfaced 10 days later, the other two are still missing, the organisation claims.

At least seven bodies were recovered from Munshiganj's Dhalehswari river in as many days. 

Source : 

War crimes charges pressed against Quader Molla

The prosecution on Sunday submitted formal war crimes charges against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla to the International Crimes Tribunal.

Seven specific charges have been brought against Quader Molla which includes killings, arsons and loots in Mohammadpur, Mirpur and Keraniganj areas in the capital, prosecutor Mohammad Ali said while addressing a press briefing at the tribunal.

Quader Molla was directly involved with the crimes committed in Mirpur and Mohammadpur areas, the prosecutor said.

He said the prosecution has “enough evidence” to prove the Jamaat leader's involvement in the crimes committed in 1971.

The three-member tribunal fixed December 28 for taking the charges into cognisance against Jamaat leaders Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Quader Molla. 

Earlier, the tribunal fixed Sunday (December 18) for taking the charges into cognisance against Nizami, Mojaheed and Kamaruzzaman after formal charges were placed against them.

But the court today said it re-fixed the date as the tribunal could not take preparation for accepting the formal charges against the three Jamaat leaders.

The tribunal started its day’s proceedings around 11:20am in presence of Nizami, Mojaheed, Kamaruzzaman and Quader Molla. 

Later, the counsel for Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee, another accused of crimes against humanity committed in 1971 Liberation War, started cross examination of second prosecution witness Ruhul Amin Nabin.

The cross-examination was continuing till 1:45pm when the report was filed.