October 2009


Remand benodon (Entertainment).

In the middle ages and in current age in some countries still in the middle age, one of the most popular entertainments was watching torture and execution of the bed elements of the society, the criminals, and the downtrodden. Citizen from all walk of like will gather in the arena to watch and enjoy the unforgettable entertainment of torture and execution of a bed soul. Elites used to get the courtside seats, the general mass in the back seats. Kids used to accompany the parents.

We think we have come a long way from those dark ages. Did we really? The electrifying spread of Saddam execution video, its popularity– does it ring some bell? What about Bangladesh? If we change the context a bit, I do not see much change in the instinct.
In Bangladesh we have a thing called remand. A man/ woman under any sort of suspicion can be taken to undisclosed place by unidentified law enforcement agency people and can be kept for days to months. IN recent years remand lasted from a day to 4 to five months. During this time, the person being held cease to have any kind of basic right. He/ she can’t access any lawyer/ family. He can’t make any communication with anybody. Nobody would know where the person is being taken. People who have been through remand say that during this time they were subjected to all form of torture literally non stop.

Recently torture in the name of remand has become a household feared word. Remand has gained an added dimension by media’s usage of purported remand confessions to make entertaining news. Although torture in police custody is nothing new in Bangladesh, making that event a national entertainment is probably around three years old.
During the military regime of January 2007 to January 2009, almost all of the nation was drunk in a fiesta of entertainment coming out of so called torture confessions. There were two kinds of entertainment values. First the shear fun of knowing a leader of opposing political views is getting a great thrashing while in remand. And second was from all the earth shattering purported confessions being published in the print media. During last military regime, our print media (except the honorable exception of English Daily New Age), gleefully published all the dreadful crimes the political and business leaders committed. And later all the news headlines proved to be false. Not a single media apologized and retracted all the character assassinations they have committed.
During the days of the current elected government the fanfare of remand continued, but with an added spice. One person is picked to get some good thrashing; government’s judiciary provides a remand. Then thrashing starts. And newspapers, as expected, start publishing all the horror stories.

And if the person in remand happens to be a young woman, nothing can get better than that. Invariably erotically charged stories will come out how that women lived with many men, how she was violated, used-reused, how many people married her and divorced her etc. The stories however keep on changing. If one reads same newspaper on three consecutive days, there will be three conflicting version of the same story.

Remains buried under all these sadistic national entertainment— independent-passionate judiciary, responsible journalism and basic human rights.
Who cares.

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Ex state minister for Home affairs and expelled BNP leader Lutfuzzaman Babar has been taken into remand under a directive of Supreme Court chamber judge Mozammel Hossain. Earlier a two judge high court bench directed the government to interrogate Mr Babar in Dhaka Central Jail where Mr Babar is in custody now. This supreme court verdict, indirectly, marks a demarcation line between interrogation and remand. The Attorney General asked for something more than simple interrogation and the appellate divn chamber judge M Mozammel Hossain used his constitutional power to allow the state to do ‘something more’ on Mr Babar. Even Attorney General Mahbubey Alam stated that “…the investigators are empowered to decide the place and mode of the interrogation,..”.

 It is an open secret that remand means torture. Every single person who have been through remand in recent past have termed their remand time as living in hell. A senior BNP leader today described remand as killing someone, by stripping him of his self esteem, hope and physical well being. Senior national leaders including current PM, deputy leader of the house, leader of the opposition, senior ministers, parliamentary standing committee chiefs have said, on numerous occassions and on record, that rermand equals torture.

We used to see a lot of remands during the immediate past military regime. People from both sides of political dichotomy in Bangladesh were tortured in the name of remand. And during that time, on many occasions, high court came to reprieve by blocking remand petitions. Many current ruling party leader benefited from such directives of high court. And that time the military government arm twisted Appellate division to overturn many of the high court blocked remand petitions. It is very unfortunate that a democratically elected government run by a party which claims to carry a liberal ideology will resort to the tactics of a cruel military regime. Today, two persons, Justice M Muzammel Hossain and Attorney general Mahbubey Alam paved way for the state to torture a person.  This report in a mainstream vernacular newspaper describes the cirmstances that led to the unprecedented verdict of the supreme court. It must be taken into heart that a supreme court judge and an attorney general are not merely persons. They are institutions. They represent the state and the constitution. Personal political bias, grudge and political calculations must not guide these sort of institutions to resort to unconstitutional activities like torture. Torture does not bring any good for anybody. Torture can not be a tool of a civilized society. Torture can only take the nation back into the dark middle ages.

Apparently, Daily Star has uncovered what neither the past Caretaker Government nor this Awami League Government could, that the August 21 grenade attack on the then-Leader of the Opposition and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was orchestrated by Lutfozzaman Babar and others in Hawa Bhaban, in presence of a Hawa Bhaban “bigwig.”

Of course, it is hard to imagine why Awami League would not gleefully trumpet any evidence linking senior BNP leaders to any crime, let alone something as horrible as murder, and leave it to Daily Star to break the news. If there was an iota, a trace, or a scintilla of truth to this accusation, this would have come out a long time ago. Awami League MPs have already asked for Khaleda Zia to be arrested for the bomb blast near Fazle Noor Taposh. If there existed any evidence at all linking BNP leaders to the August 21 blast, our brave Home Minister and Home State Minister, and our valiant Commerce Minister, would have flooded the airwaves with that information a long time ago.

Let’s parse the report and see the sources DS tries to attribute:

1. “A highly privileged document in which a top accused of the grenade carnage gave some descriptions about how the killing mission had been organised”

2. “This correspondent talked with investigators and intelligence officials involved with the probe over the last five years”

3. “Detained Salam Pintu”

4. “Huji sources”

5. “An influential Huji leader”

6. “number of officials involved with the investigations”

7. “Former CID inspector Munshi Atiqur Rahman”

8. “Bangla Bhai”

This news report goes against every rule of journalism. It bears the same relationship to journalism that the “chotis” on sale in front of New Market bear to literature. It’s sad that this hack, Julfikar Ali Manik, also writes in the New York Times about Bangladesh. And in Outlook India, about Moeen U. Ahmed’s steely resolve and his plan to build a hospital by auctioning the luxury cars that were seized during the anti-corruption drive.

Of the only two live human beings quoted as source, one of them is Abdul Salam Pintu. Let us see what the Awam League government has been doing with him the past six months. From New Age:

The High Court bench of Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Raisuddin also ordered proper medical treatment of Pintu by specialist physicians.

The court passed the order reprimanding the government and attorney general Mahbubey Alam for remanding Pintu in custody in the case in which the government had sought time for preparation for the hearing .

‘We adjourned the hearing after you [attorney general] sought time. But the petitioner is being tortured in police custody on remand. It is very unfortunate,’ Justice Dastagir Husain told Mahbubey Alam.

Pintu’s counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain drew the court’s attention to the matter saying Pintu had filed a petition seeking bail in the case. The High Court on October 8 adjourned the hearing in the bail petition as the government had sought time. But Pintu was remanded in custody on October 11 for three days for interrogation in the same case.

‘Pintu is being tortured in police custody to extract confessional statement from him,’ the defence counsel said adding that Pintu was taken to Rajarbagh police lines hospital for treatment.

The attorney general, however, tried to defend the government action and said, ‘The grenade attack, which killed 24 people and injured 200 others, including Sheikh Hasina, is very serious after the August 15, 1975 carnage in which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with his family was killed.’

‘You cannot do whatever you wish just because you have power… Today you have power, but tomorrow you may not have and who knows you won’t be tortured then,’ Justice Dastagir Husain said.

How did Daily Star cover the same story?

The High Court (HC) yesterday directed the authorities concerned to interrogate former BNP deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu at the jail gate in the cases against him.

The court also asked the authorities to make arrangements for his treatment, if he (now in Dhaka Central Jail) is ill.

An HC bench comprised of Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Rais Uddin came up with the order upon a petition filed by Pintu’s brother Shamsur Rahman Toha on behalf of him.

It was stated in the petition that Pintu was tortured in the name of interrogation while on remand, and he would be taken on further remand.

A Dhaka court on Sunday placed Pintu, accused in two criminal cases in the August 21 grenade attack, on a three-day fresh remand to trace suppliers of Arges grenades used in the carnage that left 23 people dead.

Contacted, Additional Attorney General AKM Zahirul Hoque said Pintu was not tortured while on remand, and the government provides him treatment if he is ill.

Pintu was arrested on January 17 last year in the grenade attack case.

Advocate Khandaker Mahbub Hossain appeared for Pintu.

I think the bias is self-evident.

Of course, Daily Star has had a long love affair with Hawa Bhaban.

The good news is that Daily Star’s readers know they are being lied to. Some of the reader comments, posted on the news report:

Your correspondent dishes out a story planted by CID without verification and providing any concrete evidence. Having a statement purported to have been made by a person under custody is not good enough. DS should be more circumspect with such news reports. Partisan politics should have no role in investigation of this nature.

Thanks for the report. The Daily Star advertises that they do journalism without favour or fear.
So keeping the above slogan in mind I have to ask a question.
Who is this Hawa bhaban bigwig? Why are you scared to print Tarique Rahman’s Name?

Thanks for the story.There is nothing new in this article.
Mr Manik, you just compiled reports which are allready known to the mass people like us. There is nothing new at all. Please, don’t make reports to increase the sale of your daily.
Have courage to speak the truth and give us something more authentic.

As the old saying goes: you can’t fool all the people, all the time.