Five Army officers have been convicted in Court Martial for attempted murder on Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, MP. They are: Major Helal, Captain Rezaul Karim, Captain Rajib, Captain Fuad, and Captain Subayel Ibne Rafique. They have each been setenced to five years of jail, stripped of their army rank, and denied any retirement benefits. They will be serving out their sentences in Dhaka Central Jail.
Bangladesh has an unfortunate tendency of either seeing such attacks go uninvestigated or using them for political gain. The investigation and trial of the attackers on Sheikh Taposh could have been an exception to this trend. Court Martial proceedings are much more restricted in nature than civilian trials, that much is understood. However, to hold the entire trial in secret, and only allow it to appear in the media once the sentence has been delivered seems to be much more restrictive than was necessary.
A Daily Star report by Julikar Ali Manik says that the five officers were charged with “Violation of Good Order and Discipline,” under section 55 of the Manual of Bangladesh Army Law. The relevant section states “Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and of military discipline shall, on conviction by court martial, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.”
Five Army officers, on their own, reach a conclusion that a Member of Parliament and a nephew of the Prime Minister is responsible for one of the worst carnages in our nation’s history. They do so by expressly going against the Prime Minister’s words, who is also their boss because she holds the defence portfolio. They disavow the investigation report compiled by the Army itself. They steal explosives and munitions and attempt to murder a Member of Parliament.
And they are charged with, and convicted of, Violation of Good Order and Discipline.
If we have learned anything over the past two years, it is that in our little country, no action can be kept hidden or secret forever. Sooner or later, they rise to the public consciousness, and those who tried to hide them from the public have to deal with them. And usually, the deeper something is hidden, the more serious are the consequences when the events come to light.
Given that, why is attempted murder of a MP only a Violation of Good Order and Discipline? Surely the Army Manual also contains a section on Attempted Murder?
The Daily Star report goes on to explain that “the five staged the blast not to kill Taposh but to teach the lawmaker a lesson. If they had done it with an intention to kill him, the army would have tried them differently.”
So today, we learned that attempted murder is not attempted murder when you are just trying to teach someone a lesson. That should come in useful for the two young men who ran a motorcycle over Mizanur Rahman, the teacher who was trying to protect his students from sexual harassment, a few days ago. They were only trying to teach Mizan a lesson. Please give them their five-year sentences now.
In conclusion, a few words about Manik’s article. Manik, as is his signature journalistic style, does not quote a single individual by name. He gets his information from “army sources” and an “army officer who spoke in return of anonymity.” Glenn Greenwald, who won the 2010 Online Journalism Award for Best Commentary, has said of journalists who exclusively and overwhelmingly use anonymous sources:
Anonymity [is] a key instrument used by dishonest government officials and subservient reporters to disseminate those pre-war falsehoods… In very limited circumstances, anonymity is valuable and justified (e.g., when someone is risking something substantial to expose concealed wrongdoing of serious public interest). But promiscuous, unjustified anonymity — which pervades the establishment press — is the linchpin of most bad, credibility-destroying reporting. It enables government officials and others to lie to the public with impunity or manipulate them with propaganda, using eager reporters as both their megaphone and shield. It is the weapon of choice for reporters eager to serve as loyal message-carriers and royal court gossip columnists. It preserves and bolsters the culture of secrecy that dominates Washington — exactly the opposite of what a real journalist, by definition, would seek to accomplish (though most modern journalists seem to prefer anonymity, as it makes them appear and feel special and part of the secret halls of power, and allows them to curry favor with powerful officials as their favored loyal message-carrier). In sum, petty or otherwise unjustified uses of anonymity are the hallmark of the power-worshiping, dishonest, unreliable reporter.
Although Greenwald is talking about the American press, his comments perfectly express the dangers of using anonymous sources, and why we should all be wary of journalists who do so.