The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information on January 7, 2008 that Akash, a human rights defender as well as journalist, has been facing several allegedly false extortion charges in Rajshahi Bangladesh. Even though a vacation bench of the High Court granted him bail on October 16 on one of cases, the Rapid Action Battalion-5 arbitrarily arrested, allegedly tortured him on October 24 (Please see: UP-142-2007) and detained him. The Magistrate’s Court issued an ordered to detain him in prison where he remained for 28 days. His 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.
Mr. Akash, coordinator of the Task Force against Torture (TFT)-Rajshahi city, the regional coordinator of the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) in the region and a journalist working as the bureau chief of a private news television channel CSB News and Daily Sangbad, a Dhaka based national newspaper, has been facing at least three extortion charges which he alleges are fabricated. In his work he has on numerous occasions disclosed the atrocities of the RAB in cases involving human rights violations.
The cases that Akash has 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 Akash strongly denies.
According to newly received information 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 Akash in one of his 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 Akash on October 24 (See further UP-142-2007). He was allegedly tortured and later detained him the Rajshahi Central Jail for 28 days through the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court in the region.
On November 8, Magistrate Mr. Oli Ahmed from the CMM Court’s ordered the dropping of the case against Akash under the article of 16(2) of the Emergency Powers Rules-2007 in his first case, as the country is still under the state of emergency, when he 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. 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, Akash’s legal advocate, lodged a writ petition (No. 10905/2007) on December 13 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 Akash.)
Akash and his family are living in separate places due to security problems as they continuously receive threats and intimidation from the complainants of the alleged fabricated cases as well as the officers of the RAB-5 based in Rajshahi district.
According to the latest information received on 7 January 2008, Mr. Mohammod Hossain, Akash’s legal advocate submitted all necessary documents including his certificate and an affidavit from Farhana Sarmin, Akash’s wife, to the Judge Court. Judge Mr. AR Masud of Rajshahi District Session Judge’s Court issued an arrest warrant against Akash without considering the documents submitted.
The AHRC has also learned that the Commanding Officer (CO) of the RAB-5, Mr. Quazi Shamsuzzaman Khan, has recently been transferred from his position; and Major Mr. Rashidul Hassan Rashid, who was allegedly responsible for arrest, torture, detention, intimidation and threats to Akash, has been appointed as the acting CO of the Battalion. By appointing Major Rashid as an acting CO of the force the authorities have upheld the culture of impunity yet again; instead of punishing the perpetrator, the authorities promote the alleged perpetrators.
On January 11, 2007 the President of Bangladesh proclaimed a State of Emergency and the State of Emergency has been accompanied by the Emergency Powers Ordinance-2007, which has supplemented the Emergency Powers Rules-2007. These emergency rules and ordinance have been repeatedly abused by law-enforcement agents in the country, notably to carry out arbitrary arrests of people without the need for any justification. The law effectively legalized arbitrary arrests and detention now in Bangladesh. (See further, UP-142-2007)
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 Akash Bail on October 16, the RAB arbitrarily arrested him on October 24 and the Rajshahi CMM Court issued an order to detain him in prison where he had to remain for 28 days until he was bailed by the Court of Session Judge of Rajshahi.
The High Court is well aware of this, however, it has so far failed to give an order to investigate those responsible, which in practice, give them impunity. Please also see an article on “Laws without order & courts of no relief in Bangladesh“, a special report on Bangladesh (article 2, Vol. 5, No. 4) with regards to the rule of law and judiciary system published by the Asian Legal Resource Centre which is a sister organisation of the AHRC. Since November 1, 2007, Magistrate’s courts and judge’s courts have been separated from the executive branch of the government.
BRIEF REMINDER OF THE CASE:
The AHRC has kept informing you of his case from the beginning. Please see the summary of the Urgent Appeals that it has issued so far.
On May 3, 2007, after the CSB News, a private television channel, broadcasted the news of the attempted extrajudicial killing of an alleged criminal on May 2 by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Mr. Jahangir Alam Akash, the journalist, received a threat from a person identified himself as Major Rashidul Hassan Rashid, an official of the RAB-5 in Rajshahi region. (See further, UA-149-2007)
After the AHRC issued an appeal with regards to allegation of intimidation by RAB, a police officer of the Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) began the investigation into this case and Akash went to the office of the Assistant Police Commissioner (APC) of the RMP, Mr. Muhammad Saiful Islam, and gave his written statement to the APC on 3 July 2007. (See further, UP-101-2007)
It was known on August 28 that Akash was implicated in an alleged false extortion charge (Reference: General Diary No. 1160) lodged by Mr. Mahfuzul Alam Loton, the vice president of the Awami League of the Rajshahi City Unit on 20 June 2007, which Akash strongly insisted that Loton’s complaint against him was completely false and Mr. Loton made it because Akash had published a number of reports in the media detailing the misdeeds of Mr. Loton. Akash alleged that Mr. Loton and his two friends Mr. Asad and Mr. Tuku have been working as the RAB’s source. (See further, UP-122-2007)
At around 12:30am on October 24, RAB-5 in Rajshahi region arbitrarily arrested Akash and allegedly hung him from the ceiling for a few hours and severely beat him in the army camp. Then, RAB-5 handed him over to the Boaliya police, who then produced him before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Rajshahi, under arrest for Section 16(2) of the Emergency Powers Rules-2007. Akash has been implicated in another fabricated extortion case (Case number: Boaliya Thana No. 13 of 2007) under the Bangladesh Penal Code lodged by a person named Harum on October 23. However Harum was convicted of jail term and fine by a court for a rape case in which Akash had conducted the fact-finding mission and identified him as the offender. (See further, UP-142-2007)
On November 21, the AHRC issued updated appeal that Akash received once again threat by the RAB that he would be booked with yet another fabricated charge and would be shot dead as if he was killed in an encounter. (See further, UP-155-2007)
Please write a letter to the authorities below and urge them to provide immediate protection to Mr. Akash. Please also demand the authorities to conduct an impartial inquiry about the activities of the officers of the Home Ministry, Rajshahi district administration and the RAB-5 stationed in Rajshahi city.
The AHRC writes a separate letter to the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights defenders calling for intervention in this case.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
BANGLADESH: Mr. Akash faces three alleged false charges; Judge issued warrant against him
Name of victim: Mr. Jahangir Alam Akash, the coordinator of the Task Force against Torture (TFT)-Rajshahi city; the regional coordinator of the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) in the Rajshahi region; the bureau chief of TV news channel CSB News and the daily newspaper Sangbad
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Major Mr. Rashidul Hassan Rashid, attached to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-5 deployed for the Rajshahi region
2. Mr. Humayan Kabir, Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) of RAB-5
3. Let. Col. Mr. Quazi Shamsuzzaman Khan, Commanding Officer of the RAB-5
4. Other personnel of the RAB-5
Date of incident: Continuously – since 2 May 2007
Place of incident: Rajshahi city
I am deeply concerned to know about the on going security problems and harassment involving Mr. Jahangir Alam Akash regarding the alleged fabricated charges against him caused as a result of continuing threats and intimidation by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
I have been informed that the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of Bangladesh sanctioned the note forwarded by the Rajshahi district administration for including one of the alleged fabricated charges (Case No. 2 of the Boalia police station, dated 2 October 2007) against Mr. Jahangir Alam Akash under the Emergency Powers Rules-2007 on 25 November 2007. The district administration of Rajshahi forwarded a petition following alleged pressure from the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-5, which is based in Rajshahi city. I am aware that 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.
I have learned that in order to get legal remedy from the harassment Mr. Akash’s lawyer Advocate Mr. Mohammod Hossain lodged a writ petition (No. 10905/2007) with the High Court Division Bench under Article 102(2) (A) (II) of the Constitution of Bangladesh on 13 December 2007 challenging the interventions of the local administration as well as the ministry. On 2 January 2008, a High Court Bench comprising Justice Mr. A B M Khairul Haque and Justice Mr. Abdul Awal heard the petition and stayed the sanction of the Ministry of Home Affairs for three months.
I have been informed that the Bench also issued a rule upon the Government represented by 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 the complainant of the case against Akash, Mr. Mahfuzul Alam Loton (who is reportedly a source of the Rapid Action Battalion-RAB-5 in Rajshahi) asking the respondents to show causes that why the sanction shall not be declared unlawful.
I am also aware that on 16 October 2007 a Vacation of Bench of the High Court Division comprised by Justice Mr. A F M Abdur Rahman granted an ad-interim bail to Mr. Akash in the same case (No. 2 of Boalia police station, dated 2 October 2007 under section 385/386 of the Penal Code). I am informed that the same Bench also mentioned that case will be heard before a regular bench on the reopening of the court.
While I welcome the intervention by the vacation bench of the high court I also regret that despite the bail grants by the higher court the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-5 arrested him without any warrant from his house violating the order of the High Court Vacation Bench; the RAB tortured Akash during arrest and in detention at the camp, and later detained him in the Rajshahi Central Jail for 28 days through the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court of Rajshahi.
I am surprised to learn that none of the regular benches of the High Court Division has heard the petition of Akash 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 Akash in prison in the case for which he was already bailed by the High Court.
While I am informed that, on 8 November 2007, the CMM Court’s Magistrate Mr. Oli Ahmed ordered to discharge Akash from the charge of 16(2) of the Emergency Powers Rules-2007, which was attached with the same case by the district administration when Akash was in detention, but I do not understand why the Ministry of Home Affairs supersedes the courts decision by sanctioning the Emergency Powers Rules-2007 with the same case.
I have learned that the Home Ministry was reportedly influenced by the officials of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-5 as well as the local administration of Rajshahi district to sanction the Emergency Powers Rules-2007.
I am informed that 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 unauthorised abuses of governmental power.
I am also informed that not only Akash, but his family also is under threat from the RAB. As of now Akash is keeping himself away from his 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 there. 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 year under a state of emergency.
I therefore request you to ensure that the officers of the RAB, Rajshahi district administration and the Home Ministry involved in this case are investigated and appropriate action is taken against them if the allegation is proven. Should the investigation commences, I likewise request your office to impose immediate sanctions upon these officers to ensure a credible and independent investigation, and to refrain them from using their authority to possibly further harass the victim further. The victim and his colleagues must likewise be afforded with appropriate protection and security to avert any possible violent actions that could be taken against them.
I trust that you immediate take action on this serious matter.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Office of the Chief Advisor
Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490
Tel: +880 2 882 816 079 / 988 8677
2. Mr. Mohammad Ruhul Amin
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Supreme Court Building
Fax: +880 2 956 5058
Tel: +880 2 956 2792
3. Barrister Fida M Kamal
Attorney General of Bangladesh
Office of the Attorney General
Supreme Court Building
Fax: +880 2 956 1568
Tel: +880 2 956 2868
4. General Moeen U Ahmed
Chief of Army Staff
Fax: +880 2 875 4455
Tel: +880 2 987 0011
5. Mr. Nur Mohammad
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
Fax: +880 2 956 3362 / 956 3363
Tel: +880 2 956 2054 / 717 6451 / 717 6677
6. Mr. Hassan Mahmud Khandokar
Director General (DG)
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)
Fax: +880 2 896 2884 (O)
Tel: +880 2 896 1105 (O)
Urgent Appeal Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)