The approval of death sentences passed by the anti-terrorism tribunal and the convicts' appeals in the case tied to the 2016 Holey Artisan attack are awaiting hearing at the moment.
Case documents –- from the first information report to the verdict –- were prepared and compiled for the hearing, which was supposed to take place in August last year, but a High Court department is still scrutinising them, said Supreme Court spokesperson Md Saifur Rahman.
As soon as the scrutiny is done, the documents –- which are collectively called paper book – would be presented to the chief justice. He will then appoint a High Court bench to hear the matter.
"But due to the ongoing pandemic, the scrutiny is being delayed. There is a separate paper book for each accused and each paper book contains several thousand pages. Therefore, it is taking a lot of time," Saifur Rahman said.
Preparations for the hearing will be completed as soon as the normal court proceedings begin, he added.
Lawyers said the execution of a death sentence requires approval from the High Court. So, the court concerned sends all the documents – the death reference – to the High Court and the Death Reference Branch of the High Court examines and prepares the paper book for the hearing.
Attorney General AM Amin Uddin told The Business Standard that the Attorney General's Office will initiate a hearing when the paper book is ready.
On 27 November 2019, Judge Md Mujibur Rahman of the special anti-terrorism tribunal of Dhaka sentenced seven militants to death in the sensational Holey Artisan attack case.
The convicts are Jahangir Hossain who also went by the alias Rajiv Gandhi, Aslam Hossain, Abdus Sabur Khan, Rakibul Hasan Regan, Hadisur Rahman, Shariful Islam alias Khaled, and Mamunur Rashid Ripon. An accused named Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan was acquitted as his involvement in the crime had not been proved.
Passing the verdict over the attack, which was unprecedented in the country's history, the court said, "Members of the newly formed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh [JMB] carried out the monstrous killings...with the aim of triggering a so-called jihad in Bangladesh and attracting the attention of the international militant organisation IS.
"The positive image of Bangladesh known for peace and harmony had been tarnished through the killings. So, maximum punishment for the accused will ensure justice, and the relatives of the unfortunate people will get some peace."
On 1 July 2016, at around 9pm, militants attacked Holey Artisan Bakery on Road 79 at Gulshan 2 in the capital. They took hostage local and foreign guests at gunpoint.
Twenty-two people, 17 foreigners – nine Italians, seven Japanese, and one Indian – and five Bangladeshis, including two police officers, were brutally killed in the attack.
The incident shocked the people of the country as well as the whole world.
Two police officers, Rabiul Karim and Salauddin Khan, were killed during an operation at the restaurant on that night. Moreover, 41 members of the police and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), including the then director of RAB 1 Lieutenant Colonel Tuhin Mohammad Masud, were injured.
The next morning, six people, including five militants, were killed in an army commando operation dubbed "Thunderbolt".
Before and after the commando operation, 32 people were rescued alive.
Three days after the attack, Gulshan Police Station's Sub-Inspector Ripon Kumar Das filed a case under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
After more than two years of investigation, Inspector Humayun Kabir of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police submitted a charge sheet on 23 July 2018 against eight suspected operatives of the banned militant outfit JMB.
The court verdict came after 113 of 211 witnesses had testified for the state and the accused presented their statements in defence.
Defence lawyer Faruq Ahmed told TBS, "The High Court cannot hear the matter as the paper book is not final yet. The accused have also appealed, which will be heard once the paper book is ready. I hope the accused will be acquitted on appeal."