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Monday, March 31, 2008
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Jailers 'force' Hasina to appear in court

The ailing AL chief tells court; sent back to sub-jail from hospital after 20 days

Police struggle to control media people at Square Hospital in the capital yesterday when Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina was being taken back to the sub-jail.Photo: STAR

Detained Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina yesterday told a special court that the jail authorities are depriving her of fundamental human rights and produced her before the court forcefully although her treatment had not yet completed.

During the hearing of charge framing in the barge-mounted power plant case against her and seven others, Hasina repeatedly complained about the jail authorities' behaviour and the quality of treatment she had received at hospital.

Special Court-1 of Judge Firoz Alam later postponed the hearing until April 3 following Hasina's complaints and on the ground that her senior counsels were absent as she was not produced before the court on time.

Hasina was taken to the sub-jail on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises after the hearing was adjourned.

The jail authorities had Hasina discharged from hospital yesterday afternoon as the court ordered them on March 23 to produce her before the court yesterday.

At court, Hasina complained about the way she was treated in Square Hospital, saying that the treatment was a "farce".

"My left eye has almost gone blind. It could have been cured had the treatment been started timely. My left ear is also losing its capacity for hearing," Hasina said repeatedly.

"I am being harassed mentally. At this moment, I feel that I cannot stand before the court anymore," Hasina said and sat down on the chair in the dock.

Earlier, she said, "I was kept in the hospital under such a condition that it often felt I was in a sub-jail, not allowed to meet my lawyers, physicians and even relatives. I felt panicked."

She compared her present situation with the one she experienced during the detention by Pakistani occupation forces in 1971. "I was ill and not allowed to meet my parents and relatives at that time and the same is happening now," she said.

Once again yesterday Hasina expressed doubt over getting justice. "Where should I go to get justice? Who to ask for justice? I do not know how much you will be able to deliver justice; I want justice from the people of the country. The people of the country will deliver the justice in the end," she said, addressing the court.

Hasina said it was said that she was unwilling to appear before the court on an earlier date. But how could she appear before the court as at least four to five tests were carried out on her on that day.

Referring to the ongoing price spiral and sufferings of people, Hasina said the government will not stay in power for a long time.

"People's sufferings are increasing with the spiralling prices of essentials. The government has to step down someday. The people of Bangladesh will obviously take to the streets in protest of their sufferings," she said.

Hasina said she cannot understand on which grounds her relatives, lawyers and physicians are not being allowed to meet her while false cases are being filed against her one after another.

Hasina also described the way she was treated at the Square Hospital after being admitted there on March 11.

She said the doctors who attended her were neither experts nor senior physicians. Only a few junior doctors visited her at the hospital. Her body got swollen once following the treatment she was given to lower her blood pressure.

“My body was swollen due to allergy. Fortunately, I knew some treatment like applying vaseline or olive oil on the skin,” Hasina added.

The AL president said the doctor, who referred her to get admitted to the hospital, was not even allowed to visit her for a single day.

Moreover, none of the medical board, formed to examine her physical condition, visited her or conducted any test on her.

Hasina also informed the court of the fact that the eye specialist, who had been attending her, suggested her to avoid exposure to light.

The former premier said she had tried several places for getting proper treatment but she found out that it is available only in the USA. Her treatment is not possible in Bangladesh.

Hasina also told the court that she was scheduled to receive treatment for her ear yesterday. But the jail authorities cancelled it saying that they have to take her to sub-jail.

She said physicians come from abroad to treat a person now-a-days while she is being denied access to her family physicians, who have been treating her for the last 30 years.

“My doctors know every detail of my illness. It is normal that a person wishes to see his or her personal physician. But the jail authorities did not allow my personal physicians to see me,” said Hasina.

“They don't allow me to meet my relatives and lawyers. As a result, I could not have any detail or effective consultation with the lawyers about this case. Then how they will represent me in the court,” Hasina said.

After Hasina delivered her speech, prosecution lawyer Syed Ahsan Habib Shamim stood up and told the court they are sympathetic towards Hasina's condition but they want the court proceedings to continue.

Defence lawyer advocate Kamrul Islam stood up and submitted separate petitions before the court.

In one of the petitions, the defence said due to the delay in producing Hasina before the court, their senior lawyers barrister Shafique Ahmed and Yousuf Hossain Humayun, who waited until 12:00 noon, had left the court and hearing cannot be held in their absence.

The defence lawyers also appealed before the court for issuing order regarding re-hospitalisation and treatment of Hasina.

The court adjourned the hearing on the ground of absence of the senior lawyers.

The court said that it is failure on the part of the jail authorities that Hasina was not produced before the court at scheduled time at 9:30am. Besides, the jail authorities failed to produce her before the court on March 24, reviewed the court.

The jail authorities on March 24 informed court that they could not produce Hasina before the court due to her "unwillingness" although she was in "fine physical condition".

Doctors at the Square Hospital on the same day said it would take 10 more days to complete her physical check-up.

The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case last year.

The prosecution completed their submissions on March 9 after the hearing proceedings had been adjourned on seven occasions.

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