Tarique Rahman, a leading accused in corruption cases also elder son of former prime minister Khaleda Zia, was released on bail yesterday afternoon after 18 months of imprisonment on various charges.
He became a free man again with the withdrawal of prison guards at 4:30pm from a cabin of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital which had been used as a prison cell.
Tarique is among a dozen of high profile prisoners released either on bail or executive orders so far.
He will however remain in the hospital until leaving the country for a long stay overseas.
It was not confirmed immediately when and to where the senior joint secretary general of BNP will fly off, but party and family sources hinted that he might travel to London first for treatment.
They said Tarique has numerous offers from his loyalists and well-wishers living in different countries to host him.
Earlier, he got bail in all 13 cases against him and was supposed to be released on Tuesday.
But his much publicised release was delayed as the bail bond in a bribery case was not signed and delivered to the prison authorities within office hours.
Believed to be a political heir of Zia family, Tarique's release coincides with his mother Khaleda Zia's one year in detention in a makeshift prison on the parliament building premises.
Hundreds of activists, leaders, and supporters of BNP and its front organisations gathered at the hospital since morning with flowers and sweets to greet Tarique.
Some of them also carried pigeons to release into the sky, celebrating their leader's newfound freedom.
A smiling Tarique waved to the crowd from his third floor cabin window amid chants of slogans and cheers from his supporters.
He also sought blessings from his loyalists, in response to which many burst into tears praying for his quick recovery.
"We want you to get rid of the repressive government," one supporter shouted out from the crowd.
Soon after Tarique's release, a group of BNP leaders including BNP Secretary General Khandaker Delwar Hossain, Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui and Rizvi Ahmed entered his cabin and congratulated him with flowers.
"Tarique has been freed through the legal process. We are happy for that," Delwar told reporters before visiting Tarique in the hospital.
Coming out of the cabin, he said preparations were on to send Tarique abroad for treatment. But he did not elaborate.
Tarique's wife Zubaida Rahman also rushed to the hospital immediately after her husband's release. She greeted him with a bouquet.
Earlier, Tarique telephoned his wife and also talked to his daughter.
He will be under the supervision of BSMMU Hospital authorities from now on.
The BSMMU vice-chancellor requested the DMP commissioner to ensure Tarique's security.
A team of Tarique's relatives also engaged themselves in ensuring his security in the hospital.
Earlier the government had released Tarique's younger brother Arafat Rahman Koko on an executive order on July 17, who is now undergoing treatment in a Bangkok hospital. Koko is also facing two graft and an extortion cases.
Meanwhile, Khaleda got bail in two of the four cases against her.
Suffering from multiple physical ailments including spinal cord complications, Tarique is expected to travel to London first and then to Germany for treatment.
BNP sources said he might stay abroad for a long time.
Deputy Inspector General of Prisons Maj Shamsul Haider Siddique came to block-D of the hospital apparently signalling Tarique's release. His arrival at 3:55pm evoked a wave of cheers among the waiting supporters.
Haider came out of block-D 30 minutes later and announced the release of Tarique.
"Tarique's release was delayed as we received one of the bail orders late," he said surrounded by a huge crowd.
"We have withdrawn jail security for Tarique and the nearby Shahbagh police station will ensure his security now," he told the reporters.
CHAOS AT BSMMU
With BNP activists and supporters crowding to greet Tarique, chaos gripped the hospital throughout the day, collapsing medical services at block-D causing immense sufferings to other patients.
Many patients and their relatives were seen helpless as they could neither enter nor come out of block-D occupied by the supporters of Tarique, who were shouting and chanting slogans, seemingly forgetting that they were in a hospital.
Many patients with emergency needs could not be supplied with medicines on time due to the chaos, alleged several relatives of the patients.
Neither the hospital authorities nor police had any control over the frenzied crowd. Police on duty remained stationary, watching the show.
NEW TURN IN POLITICS
The release of Tarique is likely to expedite his mother's, who has been refusing to come out of detention and to join the ongoing politico-electoral dialogues between the government and political parties, without his sons' release.
Khaleda's release hard on the heels of her elder son's, is expected to end an episode in the ongoing political tension in the country.
Political analysts are considering Tarique's release as a significant development towards narrowing the chasm between BNP and the caretaker government.
Tarique expressed deep gratitude to the people for their love for him.
In a signed statement, he thanked all who prayed and tried for his release. "I have no way to repay the love and doa offered by all classes of people, including party leaders and workers, at home and abroad during my imprisonment," Tarique said.
He also prayed for the release of her mother and all political detainees.
Khaleda expressed gratitude to the caretaker government for freeing Tarique on bail.
UNB adds: DIG (Prisons) Maj Shamsul Haider Siddique met Khaleda at the makeshift jail on the parliament-building complex after the release of Tarique and conveyed the message to her.