Ex-Bangladesh minister denied bail in Chittagong arms haul


Dhaka : A court in Chittagong has denied bail to a former minister being probed for links to the 2004 seizure of a huge consignment of arms meant for an Indian militant group operating from Bangladesh.

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The court order came late Thursday night after government lawyers and those of Lutfozzaman Babar, a minister in the former Khaleda Zia government, “engaged in a hot debate” over the bail petition, The Daily Star said Friday.

Babar is the first politician to be detained and questioned for the last five days about the arrival of truck-loads of arms, ammunition and explosives that, as per media reports here, were meant for the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

Babar has told investigators that ULFA and the embassy of a South Asian country bribed “higher-ups” in the former Khaleda Zia government to ensure safe passage of the consignment.

Ten truckloads of submachine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, other firearms and bullets were seized at the Karnaphuli coast in Chittagong April 2, 2004.

The cache, detected by guards at a warehouse where it was hidden, was meant for the ULFA that was then staging violent attacks from Bangladeshi soil, media reports on the ongoing trial in a Chittagong court have said.

The arms, purchased from China, were brought in a ship owned by a company belonging to Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury, a lawmaker and senior leader of Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Officials have so far questioned a former home secretary, two former chiefs of the National Security Intelligence (NSI) and a former Director General of Field Intelligence (DGFI).

The NSI and DGFI are key intelligence agencies in Bangladesh.

The Sheikh Hasina government has closed down the ULFA camps, evicted many of its top leaders and facilitated their detention by Indian authorities.