Saturday, August 16, 2008

Security problem of a Bangladeshi journalist


Due to professional activity
After arrest torture and detention by RAB
A Bangladeshi journalist-human rights activist
facing false charges and continuous threatened


I am Jahangir Alam Akash, Rajshahi bureau chief of the ‘Daily Sangbad’ and recently closed down 24 hours television channel ‘CBS News’ and Freelance Correspondent for the Radio German Deutsche Welle-DW(Bengali Service), Regional Coordinator for the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights and elected General Secretary for the Rajshahi Union of Journalists (RUJ). My national ID No. 8192227219372. My Birthday is 20th January. My Passport no is A 0390289.
I have been engaged in journalism for last 19 years. I have completed BA (Hon ours) and MA in Philosophy from the University of Rajshahi and acquired a Post-Graduate Diploma in Civic Journalism from the Department of Mass Communication & Journalism of the same university. I also worked with Ekushey Television, Dainik Bangla, Banglar Bani, Ajker Kagoj, The New Nation, The Morning Sun and The Associated Press of Bangladesh (APB).
I have been facing at least three extortion false charges which are fabricated. In my work I have on numerous occasions disclosed the atrocities of the RAB in cases involving human rights violations. Due to reporting on corruption and violation of human rights, I have been facing false extortion cases one after another. Because of reporting on scam in Waqfo estate management and shooting a top terror in front of his wife and little daughter, RAB-5 Rajshahi members detained me and tortured inhumanely although I was in bail.
The time when the present Caretaker Government is working on stopping corruption and to uphold human rights, here a Journalist-cum-Human Rights activist are being harassed by false cases due to reporting on corruption and human rights violation. Extreme unfair and unjustified actions are being taken on me. I was harassed for professional reasons by clear conspiracy and series of false cases. I want relief from these tortures and harassment. I want to live a normal life with my family. Now, I am staying in Dhaka with my fourteen month old son Fiman Farnad & my wife Farhana Sarmin.
"On 2 May 2007 at around 5:30 pm, a message came to me that an incident of 'crossfire' took place in the house of Mr. Mohammad Benzir in the Hoseniganj Betpatti area, Rajshahi city. Then and there, I and my colleague Mr. Tofayel Ahammad along with cameraperson Mohammad Masud rushed to the scene and recorded the video footage of the incident. We received information from Benzir's family members that the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel shot at the legs of Mr. Benzir in front of his wife and daughter in his bed room.
None of the RAB personnel, who were involved in the alleged operation, did agree to give their statements in front of television camera regarding the incident. In the evening, I send the report to my office [Dhaka] from my office [in Rajshahi]. In a news bulletin broadcasted at 1:00 am early in the following morning [3 May 2007], the report was screened on air.
On this, at 9:33 pm on 3 May 2007 I received a call in my mobile phone number: [+88]01720084944 from RAB officer Major Rashidul Hasan Rashid from another mobile number: [+88]01714049431. I said 'salam' when I received the phone. As soon as I received the phone, the caller asked me that why the broadcasting of the news regarding the RAB's operation was stopped just after airing only two bulletins. In reply, I told the person that 'it is a matter of the head office'.
He [Major Rashid] became annoyed with me and said, ‘You broadcasted this report intentionally.' I replied, '‘It is my professional duty, not more intention at all.' He [Major Rashid] asked, "Why did you broadcast the crying face and statements of Benzir's wife and daughter?" In response, I asked him, “Do you want to know it officially?”
At this stage, Major Rashid became very rude and I cannot mention the words he shouted at me in my language [the language was very bad]; he was outraged and said, "If you fail to give the right answer that why did you broadcast the report, then I shall take actions against you" I said, "I have not committed any crime." Major Rashid asked again, "Why did the other TV channels not broadcast the same report? You did it intentionally and your this particular action belongs to 'anti-state activity'."
He [Major Rashid] again said, "Mind it, you, any of your colleagues and the camera of the CSB News are not seen at all within the jurisdiction and activities of RAB. If it is seen any further that you or your CSB's camera is close to the activities of the RAB, then RAB go for action against you. After this, he [Major Rashid] disconnected the (mobile phone) line."
After giving the detailed address, I signed on my written statement, which was received with signature and official chop by the Reader to APC [Assistant Police Commissioner], Model Police Station, Boalia, RMP, Rajshahi on 3 July 2007. Mr. Golam Mostofa, the Field Officer of the National Security Intelligence (NSI) interrogated me regarding the said intimidation and threats on 15 July 2007.
Besides, at around 6.00pm on 22 July 2007, Mr. Moyeen, an Inspector of the Special Branch of the Rajshahi city of the RMP visited my office and took my statement. Inspector Moyeen also asked about the security problem of me, I replied that the RAB is involved in extra judicial killings in the country and I feared that I could be a victim of such killing. I reported that I have been continuing my works but worry that the RAB or his men may target me for further harassment or intimidation.
After this event, CSB News Channel was closed down on 6th September, 2007. A human rights defender as well as journalist, I have been facing several allegedly false extortion charges in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. Even though a vacation bench of the High Court granted me bail on October 16, 2007 on one of cases, the Rapid Action Battalion-5 arbitrarily arrested, allegedly tortured me on October 24, 2007 and detained me. The Magistrate's Court issued an ordered to detain me in prison where I remained for 28 days. My legal representative submitted all the necessary documents required for the trial but a judge of the Rajshahi Judge's Court issued an arrest warrant without considering the documents.
The cases that I have been implicated in are No. 2 of the Boalia police station, dated 2 October 2007 lodged by Mr. Mahfuzul Alam Loton, No. 13 of the Puthia police station, dated 23 October 2007 lodged by Mr. Abdul Jalil and No. 28 of Puthia police station, dated 25 November 2007 lodged by Mr. Abdul Latif Biswas. All cases are extortion charges, which I strongly denies.
Justice Mr. A F M Abdur Rahman of the vacation bench of the High Court, which runs instead of a regular bench during vacation periods, granted an ad-interim bail to me in one of my cases (No. 2 of Boalia police station, dated 2 October 2007) charged under section 385/386 of the Penal Code on 16 October 2007. It further mentioned that this case would be heard before a regular bench when the court reopens.
Despite of the order from the High Court, the RAB-5 arbitrarily arrested me on October 24, 2007. I was tortured and later detained me the Rajshahi Central Jail for 28 days through the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court in the region.
On November 8, 2008 Magistrate Mr. Oli Ahmed from the CMM Court's ordered the dropping of the case against me under the article of 16(2) of the Emergency Powers Rules-2007 in my first case, as the country is still under the state of emergency, when I was detained in the Rajshahi Central Jail.
However, the Ministry of Home Affairs sanctioned a note forwarded by the district administration of Rajshahi for the case on November 25, 2007. It is alleged that the district administration forwarded a petition due to the pressure from the RAB-5 based in Rajshahi city.
As the country has been under a State of Emergency since 11 January 2007, attaching any case within the jurisdiction of the Emergency Powers Rules-2007 supplements a trial of the cases within 45 days since the beginning of the trial. In order for doing so, Mr. Mohammod Hossain, my legal advocate, lodged a writ petition (No. 10905/2007) on December 13, 2007 to the bench of the High Court under the Article 102((2) (A) (II) of the Constitution of Bangladesh to challenge the interventions from the Ministry and the district administration.
On 2 January 2008, the bench of the High Court comprising of Justice Mr. A B M Khairul Haque and Justice Mr. Abdul Awal ruled that it stayed the sanction issued by the district administration by way of the Ministry of Home Affairs for three months after a hearing. It also asked the representatives of the Government to give a reason why the sanction issued by the Ministry was not declared as unlawful. (Those representatives, in this case, are the Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs, the Additional Secretary of Law Department-1 of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Sessions Judge of Rajshahi district, the Additional Inspector General of Police (Offence)-2, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Head Quarter) of the Rajshahi Metropolitan Police, and Mr. Mahfuzul Alam Loton who lodged a complaint against me.)
Still I and my family are living in separate places due to security problems as we continuously receive threats and intimidation from the complainants of the fabricated cases as well as the officers of the RAB-5 based in Rajshahi district and some corrupt powerful influential political leaders.
On 7 January 2008, Mr. Mohammod Hossain, my legal advocate submitted all necessary documents including his certificate and an affidavit from Farhana Sarmin, my wife (She is an university student), to the Judge Court. Judge Mr. AR Mas-ud of Rajshahi District Session Judge's Court issued an arrest warrant against me without considering the documents submitted.
This case illustrates how the law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh simply ignored the decision or order of the courts. It also illustrates there are dysfunctions in the judiciary system in Bangladesh. Even though the vacation bench of the High Court granted my bail on October 16, 2007 the RAB arbitrarily arrested me on October 24, 2007 and the Rajshahi CMM Court issued an order to detain me in prison where I had to remain for 28 days until I was bailed by the Court of Session Judge of Rajshahi.

It was known on August 28, 2007 that I was implicated in an alleged false extortion charge (Reference: General Diary No. 1160) lodged by Mr. Mahfuzul Alam Loton, the vice president of the Bangladesh Awami League of the Rajshahi City Unit on 20 June 2007, which I strongly insisted that Loton's complaint against me was completely false and Mr. Loton made it because I had published a number of reports in the media detailing the misdeeds of Mr. Loton. It is known that, Mr. Loton and his two friends Mr. Asad and Mr. Tuku have been working as the RAB's source.
Mr Loton is the uncle of Mr. A H M Khairuzzaman Liton, Bangladesh Awami League leader and Mayor-elect of Rajshahi. He is the powerful & influential leader of Rajshahi. He is the one of mastermind against my arrest, tortured, detained and false charges. He was newly elected Mayor of Rajshahi. For this reason, again I am fearing and insecurity problem.
At around 12:30am on October 24, 2007 RAB-5 in Rajshahi region arbitrarily arrested me and hung me from the ceiling for around 9 hours and severely beat me in the army (RAB) camp. Then, RAB-5 handed me over to the Boalia police, who then produced me before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Rajshahi, under arrest for Section 16(2) of the Emergency Powers Rules-2007. Though, any magistrate had not present in that day. I have been implicated in another fabricated extortion case (Case number: Puthia police station No. 13 of 2007) under the Bangladesh Penal Code lodged by a person named Abdul Jalil on October 23, 2007. However Jalil is an accused murderer and father of a rapist JCD (JCD is the student wing of BNP) cadre Harun. A rape case against Harun in which I had conducted the fact-finding mission and identified him as the offender.
On November 21, 2007 I received once again threat by the RAB that I would be booked with yet another fabricated charge and would be shot dead as if I was killed in an encounter or crossfire.
In spite of the bail grants by the higher court the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-5 arrested me without any warrant from my rent house violating the order of the High Court vacation Bench; the RAB tortured me during arrest and in detention at the RAB camp, and later detained me in the Rajshahi Central Jail for 28 days through the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court of Rajshahi.
I am surprised that none of the regular benches of the High Court Division has heard the petition of me since the reopening of the courts although Justice A F M Abdur Rahman's vacation bench ordered that the case to be placed before a regular bench when the court is reopened. I regret that the High Court has neither held the RAB officials accountable for violating its order as a contempt of court charge nor the magistrates of the Rajshahi CMM Court for detaining me in prison in the case for which I was already bailed by the High Court.
The magistrate's courts and judge's courts in Bangladesh has recently been separated from the executive branch of the government, which was in effect since 1 November 2007. On this, I am inquisitive to learn whether the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, which is the authority to deal with the subordinate judiciary of the country, has yet taken any action regarding these issues involving contempt of courts and unauthorized abuses of governmental power.
Not only me, but my family also is under threat from the RAB. As of now I am keeping myself away from my home in order to be safe.
This is not any isolated example of such harassments on human rights defenders or journalists in Bangladesh. I have learned that it is a very common phenomenon for the professionals like journalists and human rights defenders of Bangladesh facing arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, fabricated charges and death threats from the law-enforcing agencies and security forces while the atrocities of the law-enforcers are criticized in various media. I am also very much concerned that since the state of emergency was imposed in the country such threats and intimidations by state's security forces have alarmingly increased here (Bangladesh). Yet none of the alleged perpetrators have been prosecuted for their alleged crimes. As a result, the worst type of culture of impunity is cultivated in Bangladesh, despite the nation's presence in the UN Human Rights Council since May 2006. I am also concerned about the reports of torture, ill-treatment, extra-judicial killings by the armed security forces for last one and half year under a state of emergency.
Why the lawsuits… On December 1, 2006, RAB murdered Ahsan Habib Babu, a Chatra Leage leader from Durgapur. On May 2, 2007 Benazir (BNP) was shot by RAB in front of his wife and minor daughter. On May 16, 2007 RAB tortured jail-guard Sahebul Islam. RAB killed a Warkers Party local Leader Kamrul Islam alias Majnu Sheikh in a litchi garden in Choto Bangram of Rajshahi on May 18, 2007.
I reported these incidents in CSB News, Deutsche Welle and in Daily Sangbad. When Benazir was shot on May 2, 2007 it was reported by me in CSB News. RAB-5 Second in command Major Rashidul Hasan threatened me on May 3 and said RAB will take action against me. I complained to Amnesty International and Human Rights Commission regarding this threat. Then an investigation was commissioned. I gave my testimony to NSI, SB and Police. For these reasons RAB was furious with me.
On the April 9, 2002 and on the December 17, 2006 I reported about the corruption in the management of Delwar Hossain Waqf Estate in Rajshahi. On March 4, of 2000 I reported about Mahfuzul Alam Loton, the son of the sacked Motawali (of the Estate) Abdus Samad and his gang’s terrorist activities. On April 25, 2007 my report on the corruption of this estate was broadcasted by CSB News.
Working as a regional coordinator of a human rights organization, Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights, I did some fact-finding on RAB’s human rights violations especially extra judicial killings. These facts were sent to the Home minister, Prime minister and the Chief adviser seeking necessary actions.
Reacting to my reports in CSB News and Daily Sangbad on corruption in Delwar Hossain Waqf Estate in Rajshahi, Mahfuzul Alam Loton, son the Motawali Abdus Samad filed a GD (General Diary No. 1160) on June 20, 2007 charging me of a false extortion attempt of Taka 50,000 in the Boalia model police station.
After closed CSB News On October 2, the same complaint was submitted in the same police station as Izahar and it was recorded as a case (No. 2, Section 385/386). I immediately applied to the high court and received an ad-interim bail. But violating the court ruling RAB arrested me on the October 24 at 12.30am.
I was blindfolded with a towel, covered with a mask and was taken to RAB-5 office. I was beaten by RAB in front of my 4-month old son Fiman Farnad (now 14 month old) and my wife Farhana Sarmin was also witness to this. At the same time when Likhon, 26, the son of my landlord Mr. Abul Kashem, asked about the identity of the persons arresting me. He was also beaten.
After my arrival in RAB-5 office I was kept hanging from ceiling with ropes in my hands, with the mask on my face. In the morning the RAB commander Major Rashidul Hasan and Humayun Kabir (DAD) tortured me physically. They have sworn nasty words towards me. Major Rashid was gave me electric shocks. They handed me over to Boalia police station at 4:30 in the afternoon under section 54 (Under Section 16/2 of Emergency Power Rules-EPR.
Boalia police station put me on CMM court under section 16 (2) of the emergency act. I came to know later that another false extortion case was lodged against me by Abdul Jalil who is the father of a rapist Chatradol cadre Harun in the Puthia police station. The son of the plaintiff was caught red handed by the peoples while doing to rape a teenager girl. Harun was later released on acquitted. Abdul Jalil, father of Harun was murdered a poor farmer & activist of Bangladesh Awami League Abdul Halim by poison because he refused to withdraw the rape case against the rapist Harun.
Mahfujul Alam Loton, the plaintiff of the extortion case against me, witness Ziaul Haque Tuku and Asaduzzaman Asad all are working as a RAB sources. I filed a GD (No. 310) against Loton on March 7, 2000 because after my report had been published in Daily Sangbad on March 4, 2000 members of his gang tried to kill me.
Later Asaduzzaman Asad, a witness in Loton’s case took Taka 30,000 as extortion from a local businessman but he used my name. This was reported in Daily Sangbad, “Extortion using the name of a journalist,” on January 19, of 2003. I was under medical attention of Rajshahi central jail for 10 days.
As a new detainee I was went to the case table in front of the trial court of the Jail house on the first day. When I went to case table two detainee holding me from two sides. I had no power to walk. I could not even sit properly, only could put pressure in one side of the bottom.
I was broke into my tears. Many cases were lodged against me. I was being prepared to be killed in “crossfire or Encounter.”
On October 23, 2007 late at night, around 10 to 12 plainclothes RAB members came to my rent house. When I and my wife asked for their identity they said they were government officials. We said if they don’t identify themselves we won’t open the gate. In the meantime I tried to contact others. The son of the landlord came down from his flat and asked them why they were not identifying themselves. He was beaten and sworn at for this.
In the meantime police also came. I was opened the door but the front grill of the house was still locked. My 4-month old son was in my lap. I was arrested instantly after opening the lock. A mask was put on my face. Before mask my eye’s covered a towel. My son was still in my hands. They searched the house but found nothing. They took me to RAB’s camp in Binodpur of Rajshahi. I was kept hanging from the ceiling with my hands tied with ropes. I was beaten mercilessly on feet and back.
I was tortured the whole night until about 4.00pm, the next afternoon. My fault was that I reported about RAB’s offenses (extra judicial killings). RAB arrested one of terrorist Benazir last May on the charges of possession of illegal arms. While arresting him they shot both of his legs in front of his minor daughter Prianka and wife. Benazir is now crippled with two bullet marks on his feet. He is also detained in this hospital area of Rajshahi central jail. RAB did not find any arms from him. I reported about this in CSB News and broadcasted interviews of his wife and daughter.
RAB murdered an innocent man Workars party leader named Majnu in a litchi garden in the town. The reason probably someone wanted him to be killed. I also reported this. So I became a target. I have been framed in multiple cases and is being tortured. When I was being tortured I was being shout at with these kinds of words… “Will you do the Benazir report again…” “Litchi garden report again…” “AHM Khairuzzaman Liton’s family report again...” “Now face the consequence… son of a pig… son of a bitch…” etc...etc…
Delwar Hossain Waqfo Estate is well known in Rajshahi. Due to corruption allegation with the management, I reported with the Daily Sangbad on 9 April 2002 and 17 December 2006. I also reported in CSB News on 25 April 2007 on the same. For this reason, Mr. Mahfuzul Alam Loton (son of Motawalli of estate Mr. Abdus Samad) filed an extortion case against me with Boalia Model Police Station. Because, Motowalli Mr. Abdus Samad was terminated from his responsibility for corruption. Mr. Loton is also a paternal uncle of A H M Khairuzzaman Liton, General Secretary of Rajshahi city Awami League & a central member of Bangladesh Awami League. I did many facts findings report about Extra-Judicial Killing and published/broadcasted series of report in this connection on DW, CSB News & the Dainik Sangbad.
On October 2, the same complaint was submitted in the Boalia police station as Izahar and it was recorded as a case (No. 2, Section 385/386). I immediately applied to the high court and received an ad-interim anticipatory bail on October 16. But violating the court order RAB arrested me on the October 24 at 1 am, late in the night.
I was blindfolded with a towel, covered with a mask and was taken to RAB-5 office. I was beaten by RAB in front of my 4 month old son Fiman Farnad and my wife Farhana Sarmin was also witness to this. At the same time when Likhon, the son of my landlord, asked about the identity of the persons arresting me. He was also beaten.
After my arrival in RAB-5 office I was kept hanging from ceiling with ropes in my hands, with the mask on my face. In the morning the RAB-5 Second in command Major Mr. Rashidul Hasan and Mr. Humayun Kabir (DAD) tortured me physically. They have sworn nasty words towards me. They handed me over to Boalia police station at 4:30 in the afternoon under section 54.
Boalia police station put me on court under section 16 (2) of the Emergency Power Rules (EPR)-2007. I was under medical attention of Rajshahi central jail. I came to know later that the father of a rapist Chatradol cadre in the Puthia police station lodged another false extortion case against me. The son of the plaintiff in the Puthia police station case was caught red handed while trying to rape a teenager girl. He was later released on acquitted. The rape victim’s father Abdul Halim was murdered by poison because he refused to withdraw the case against the rapist. And the plaintiff is accused mastermind murderer of the rape victim’s father Mr. Abdul Halim. Mr. Halim was a day labor. I was freed from Rajshahi central jail on 19 November, 2007 after 28 day’. But, again an extortion false case filed against me on 25 November, 2007. The plaintiff Mr. Abdul Latif Biswas is a accused in a sensational extortion case. I reported with the Daily Sangbad on 23 August 2003 against Mr. Latif on his antisocial activity. Mr. Latif is the President of Puthia BNP & former administrator of Puthia municipality.
Mahafujul Loton, the plaintiff of the extortion case against me, witness Ziaul Haque Tuku and Asaduzzaman Asad all are working as a RAB sources. I filed a general diary GD (No. 310) against Loton on March 7, 2000 because after my report had been published in Daily Sangbad on March 4, 2000, members of his gang tried to kill me.
Later Asaduzzaman Asad, a witness in Loton’s case took Taka 30,000 as extortion from a local businessman but he used my name. This was reported in Daily Sangbad, “Extortion using the name of a journalist,” on January 19, of 2003.
The charge sheet of the cases filed with the Boalia Model Police has been submitted on 30 October 2007. The case has been transferred to the Emergency Powers Rules. There were three extortion cases have been filed against me in 53 days.
The High Court, however, issued a Rule upon the government in reference to the case transferred to the Emergency Power Rules-EPR 2007 when I filed the Writ Petition (WP Number 10905/2007). The Court also adjourned the transfer order for next three months on 2 January 2008. But, The District Sessions and Judge Court, Rajshahi issued arrest warrant against me on 7 January violating the Rule issued by the High Court. Meanwhile, on 14 January, 2008 Rajshahi Judge Court adjourned the case from 8 January to 12 April, 2008 upon the Rule from the High Court keeping the arrest warrant valid. Later I was got bail from High Court.
On the other hand, accused torturer army officer (posted in RAB) Major Rashidul Hasan Rashid was went to Ivorecost and joined the UN peace keeping mission from Bangladesh Army।
In current situation is very bed for my life. First case against me which was filed by Mr. Mahafujul Alam Loton, is an uncle of Mayor-elect of Rajshahi City Corporation Mr. A H M Khairuzzaman Liton. Mr. Loton and Liton is the powerful leader of Bangladesh Awami League. Last 4th August Mr. Liton was elected Mayor of Rajshahi. After his victory Mr. Loton and his associates were threatened me verbally. Not only that an associates of Mr. Liton was filed a general diary against my father in law Advocate Mr. Tajul Islam Mohammad Farooq, president of Bangladesh Awami League and Ex. Member of Parliament by false charges. So, I feel very fearing. Special mention that, Mr. Liton is the main mastermind of the conspiracy against me. So, I want to leave my country. Please help me and safe my life & my family.
Finally I want to say, the false and fabricated cases have been filed against me just because of reporting on corruption and human rights violation. But I am tired physically, mentally and economically. I want to live. I want to go back to my profession and regular normal life. I strongly say that my stand is clear for the country and upholding human rights and also against all sort of corruption. Perhaps I would have to accept jail for false charge cases but I would never down my head to conspiracy and false allegation. I believe if I would not get justice from the society or country, but would definitely get “natural justice”.

Jahangir Alam Akash
Journalist & Human Rights Activists
C-361 Seroil, Ghoramara-6100
Boalia, Rajshahi, Bangladesh
Cell : +8801720084944
E-mail : jahangiralamakash@gmail.com

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Jahangir Alam Akash Editor Euro Bangla http://www.eurobangla.org/ editor.eurobangla@yahoo.de http://youtube.com/user/jaakashbd