A former chief of Bangladesh's main spy agency today claimed perpetrators of the 2004 grenade attack, which mainly targeted the then leader of Opposition and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, were protected under directives of the higher political authority.
"I was asked not to catch (arrest) them (culprits)," former Director General of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) Maj Gen (retd) Sadik Hassan Rumi told a court here as the belated trial of several high-profile suspects of the attack were underway.
"There was no dearth of efforts on my part to unearth the plot (of the attack) but I was repeatedly obstructed," he said.
The assailants had hurled 13 'arges' grenades at an Awami League rally in downtown Dhaka on August 21, 2004 but Hasina narrowly escaped the attack with permanent hearing impairment while 24 people, including incumbent President Zillur Rahman's wife Ivy Rahman, were killed and some 500 injured.
Rumi reaffirmed his earlier deposition as a prosecution witness, saying the then ruling BNP's senior vice president and ex-premier Khaleda Zia's now "fugitive" elder son Tarique Rahman, ex-home minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar and leaders of the militant outfit HuJI Mufty Abdul Hannan and Maulana Tajuddin were involved the attack plot.
The comments of Rumi, who was the chief of the spy agency during the 2001-2006 BNP-led four-party regime, came as the defence counsels at the Speedy Trial Tribunal of Judge Shahed Nuruddin cross-examined him on his November 5 deposition.
He vehemently rejected a defence proposition that he gave his statement to evade wraths of the incumbent government or Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) actions on graft charges.
"I challenge you... I have not come here to testify due to any fright or allurement... I am a (1971) freedom fighter and in my whole life I have not earned anything by dishonest means, discharged my duties with utmost honesty," Rumi said.
Replying a question Rumi said being the DGFI chief he could talk to the prime minister anytime on the basis of "talking points" and he eventually informed the then premier about the attack in writing.
In his last week's testimony, Rumi had insisted Zia barred him from investigating into the attack while the ex-premier appeared annoyed and virtually rebuked him as he wanted to talk to her on the attack issue and subsequent investigations.
"From where you gathered the ridiculous information... what is your headache if Tajuddin (a key attack plotter) goes to Pakistan or anywhere else?" Rumi recalled Zia as