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Nine individuals sentenced in 2005 killing of Bangladeshi journalist

The culture of impunity has been dealt a serious blow in Bangladesh. For the first time in the 42-year history of the country, on Thursday 27 June 2013 a Dhaka court handed down life sentences to nine individuals, accused of murdering journalist Gautam Das eight years ago. Judge Shahed Nur Uddin, of the Dhaka Speedy Trials Tribunal-1, pronounced the verdict.

Gautam Das was the Faridpur Bureau Chief for the daily Samakal. He was killed inside his office on 17 November 2005, for publishing a report on corruption. He was tortured and suffocated to death for exposing corruption and irregularities involved in the restoration of Mujib road in the town of Faridpur.

Almost eight years after his killing, nine individuals were sentenced to life in prison and a fine of Tk 50,000 (approx. US$640). Failure to pay the fine will lead to another year of imprisonment. The Judge noted that Gautam Dad had legitimate reasons for publishing his report on corruption.

Of the 10 originally accused in the case, one, Jahid Khan, had passed away. The others are: Asif Imran, Asif Imtiaz Bulu, Kazi Murad, Kamrul Islam Apan, Asad Bin Kadir, Siddiqur Rahman Mia, Tamzid Hossain Babu, Rajib Hassan Mia and Abu Taher Mortaza, all of whom were sentenced to life. Another accused named Mortaza, alias Apollo, is at large. The rest of the accused and their relatives were present at the court when the verdict was pronounced

However, the convicted seemed indifferent to the verdict. Complainant Hasanuzzaman, who is a local correspondent for Samakal, told that they would have been happier if the accused were hanged. "This verdict paves the way for justice for all the journalists who have faced a similar fate," he noted.

After the verdict was pronounced, Dipali, the wife of the slain journalist Gautam Das stated: "I am not happy with this verdict. I was hoping that the murderers would be severely punished and that they would be sentenced to death. But that is not what happened. I waited year after year for justice, but I have not received it . . . I demand that the Samakal authorities appeal against this verdict."

Gautam's mother, Satee Rani, passed away on 2 September 2007, while his father Bolram Das died on 23 November 2008 while awaiting for a judgment in the case.

The case's plaintiff, "Gautam Das Smriti Shongshod", and his colleagues from the Faridpur Press Club also had similar reactions. The plaintiff in the case Hasanuzzaman said, "We did not receive justice. I am not happy with the verdict. An appeal will be filed in the High Court."

Siraj-e Kabir Khokon, the Secretary of "Gautam Das Smriti Shongshod", said, "Gautam was brutally killed. I was hoping that the killers would get an exemplary punishment."

The President of the Faridpur Press Club Kabirul Islam Siddiky said the verdict has disappointed the people of Faridpur. "They were waiting for justice for long. Sadly they didn't receive it."

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