Vol. 5 Num 635 Sun. March 12, 2006  
Front Page

Rahman claim shows how probes politicised
Accused in cinema blast cases ask for govt apology

The government's latest disclosure that JMB had carried out the Mymensingh cinema blasts three years back contradicted its earlier find, suggesting that the ruling coalition in fact used the law enforcement and intelligence agencies as a tool for political persecution.

The government on Thursday said detained militant kingpin Abdur Rahman has confessed to ordering the blasts in December 2002. The statement has called into question the role of the law enforcers as the government had earlier claimed that the opposition Awami League (AL) and some journalists and intellectuals were behind the attacks.

Earlier JMB cadre Moinul Islam Ranga told a court last month that Salahuddin alias Salehin, the man in charge of the militant operations in Mymensingh-Sylhet region, had led the attacks.

Those who were arrested and abused on the allegation of orchestrating the cinema blasts have demanded the government seek apology, punish the persons responsible for wreaking vengeance on them and give them compensation for torture they underwent.

Some of the victims told The Daily Star yesterday that they will sue for defamation if the government does not compensate them for the damage done to their image.

Immediately after the powerful blasts at Ajanta, Chhayabani, Purabi and Aloka cinemas on December 7, 2002 killing 21 people and injuring over 200, the government had arrested 14 AL leaders including Saber Hossain Chowdhury and Principal Motiur Rahman, writer-journalist Shahriar Kabir, Prof Muntassir Mamoon and journalist Enamul Hoque Chowdhury.

A few hours after the arrests on December 8, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia while visiting Aloka Cinema Hall said the authorities had arrested some people for suspected involvement in the incidents.

Hinting at the opposition leaders and intellectuals, she said those who were running a smear campaign against Bangladesh at home and abroad bear links to such terrorist attacks.

Ministers and high officials of the law enforcement agencies too gave the impression that those who were detained had connection with the blasts. Apparently, it all was a bid to rationalise the detention of the opposition leaders and intellectuals.

Inspector General of Police Abdul Quayyum, who was then serving as the commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), told journalists after the arrests that police had strong evidence of the arrestee's involvement in tarnishing the country's image abroad.

Talking to the media 39 months into the blasts, the same police authorities on Thursday said JMB had carried out the blasts.

Police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) officials told a press briefing that the JMB chief Abdur Rahman during quizzing by Task Force for Interrogation (TIF) has admitted to staging the blasts.

The one-member judicial commission headed by Justice Sultan Hossain Khan, now the chairman of Anti-Corruption Commission, said in its report that the blasts were not an act of the BNP or AL, rather they were committed by some extremist groups.

"These groups do not belong to any political party. They are being used from outside the country," Khan told the press on March 13, 2003 after submitting his report.

But IGP Abdul Quayyum told the journalists on Friday that investigators have not yet found any international link of the JMB.

The recent confession of the militant boss has raised question whether the law enforcers and intelligence personnel act merely on the instructions of the ruling parties and whether they work at all to hunt down the real culprits.

"The government arrested and tortured us to teach us a lesson so that we stop criticising the government through writing," Prof Muntassir Mamoon told The Daily Star yesterday.

The then home minister, IGP, chief of Detective Branch (DB), and investigating officer of the blast case were involved in the government misdeed, he said. "If they are found responsible, all of them should be sacked and punished."

Those who are responsible must compensate the victims for the harassment and torture they underwent then, Prof Mamoon said, adding, "Those responsible should be dealt out exemplary punishment so that many like us don't have to face such atrocities."

"At first, the government must seek an apology," he observed.

Although Mamoon was arrested on suspicion of his involvement in the blasts, he was not shown as an accused in the case.

"But the interrogators were asking me repeatedly about the Mymensingh blasts and what I knew about Awami League's involvement in it," he said.

Some of the victims said their arrests and torture caused physical and mental damage to them, brought social stigma and financial loss upon them, caused loss of valuable time from their lives and humiliated their families.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Shahriar Kabir said, "The interrogators tortured me repeatedly to force me to furnish in black and white that Awami League and India were involved in the blasts."

"They told me that they would release me if I submitted such a written statement," he said.

Although law enforcers arrested him in connection with the Mymen-singh blasts, he was shown arrested in another sedition case later.

"The prime minister will have to apologise on behalf of the government to those who had to suffer during remand and interrogations, had to pass long time in jail and still now are appearing before the court," he said.

The government tried to implicate the opposition in the blasts to hide and save the real culprits from the very beginning, he said, adding, "By disclosing the truth, Shaekh Rahman has put the whole government in the dock."

Principal Motiur Rahman, AL's Mymensingh district unit president, still has to appear before the court as he was accused in all the four cases filed in connection with the blasts.

"The interrogators tortured me to force me to admit that my younger brother Afaz Uddin Sarker and I had blasted the bombs. But we told them we didn't know who were behind the blasts," Motiur told The Daily Star yesterday.

"If the government does not compensate me for the harm done to me, I will file defamation suit against it," he said.

Journalist Enamul Hoque, who still has to appear before a Mymensingh court, said: "The truth has at last come out. A government loses its credibility by harassing the innocent, implicating them in false cases as part of a conspiracy."

Asked about his previous statement linking the opposition leaders and intellectuals with tarnishing of the country's image, IGP Abdul Quayyum told The Daily Star yesterday, "I did not say that we had evidence of their links with the Mymensingh blasts."

"Investigation will be on of those who were arrested then in connection with these cases and investigation will also be on of the new findings (Rahman's disclosure). We'll submit charge sheets against those who are really responsible on the basis of evidence found in the investigations," he said.