Behind the Political Cover
The government has pledged to withdraw all politically motivated cases. The problem is that behind the political cover many criminals might run free.
On January 11, 2011 the government recommended the withdrawal of 56 cases filed against Awami League (AL) leaders which were lodged during the tenure of the BNP led four party alliance government to harass the political opponents. The decision was taken at a meeting of the inter-ministerial committee at the home ministry presided over by State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam who is mainly in charge of reviewing politically motivated cases. The committee in 25 meetings analysed 10,489 cases and decided that 6,788 were politically motivated and should be withdrawn.
However, many of these 'politically motivated' cases involve murder, robbery, repression of women, land grabbing, extortion and trafficking. The government's decision to withdraw these cases on the grounds that they were filed on political considerations has alarmed many citizens.
“Some serious cases such as murder and robbery were recommended for withdrawal. Clearly these cases were filed not because of political considerations by the previous governments but on the basis of serious criminal activities,” says Badiul Alam Majumdar, Secretary of Shushaoner Jonno Nagorik (Citizens for Good Governance).
On December 25, 2005 a businessman named Aftabuddin was gunned down by a group of criminals. The brother of the deceased Afrozuddin filed the case with Mirpur Police Station in the same month accusing Shahadat, Khorshed and 13 of their associates. Both Shahadat and Khorshed are infamous gangsters who generally extort money from businessmen in the Mirpur and adjacent areas. Both of them have been accused of being involved in numerous murders as they and their men have gunned down many people who had refused to pay them. The two gangsters are on the run and allegedly operate their criminal syndicates from abroad.
Yet on October 3, 2010 something rather strange happened concerning the withdrawal of a politically motivated case. Judge Mahbubur Rahman of the Environment Appeal Court dismissed the murder case of Aftabuddin following a relevant petition submitted by the special Public prosecutor (PP) on recommendation from the home ministry. The dismissal of this case meant that all the 19 accused including the two infamous gangsters Shahadat and Khorshed were cleared of the murder of the businessmen. The government decision led to an outcry and ultimately in the face of widespread criticism, Dhaka Metropolitan Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu requested a trial court to rescind its dismissal of the Afatabuddin murder case on November 29, 2010.
The law must be allowed to take its own course. Photo: zahedul i khan
Abdullah Abu said in his defence that he had requested the court to drop the charge only against the number one accused Osman Goni Sarkar, as the charge against him had been deemed politically motivated. But the home ministry decided to drop the case altogether, and made a recommendation accordingly, said the PP.
The State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam said that while the PP had appealed to the court to drop charges against only one person, as it was considered politically motivated, charges were dropped against every accused. Qamrul also stated the possibility that a mistake was being made and was highly critical of the court for dropping charges against everyone.
However, some home and law ministry officials told The Daily Star that putting the entire blame on the court is inappropriate as is the claim that there had been a mistake, as the procedure for scrapping cases that are deemed politically motivated is quite lengthy. Whatever the truth, the incident highlights that many criminals involved in heinous acts might have charges dropped against them if they have the right connections, and in the process their victims will be deprived of justice.
Shahadat used to be a leader of a Mirpur unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League. There are 14 murder cases against him. Majumdar like many others is wary that many people associated with the ruling party of dubious character could be set free. “Except a few instances, nearly 7,000 cases that were recommended for withdrawal involves ruling party activists. So there appears to be clear partiality in favour of those affiliated with the ruling party,” he says.
Majumdar also says that there are allegations that many, if not most of the cases recommended for withdrawal are based on political influence and not political consideration for withdrawing these cases. To put it simply, many of those accused for various crimes have ever hardly been affiliated with political activism and as such there is no reason that their cases are politically motivated.
On July 10, 2004, a sweater factory worker from Dawlatpur upazila of Manikganj, Ayub Ali was brutally murdered with sharp weapons. Following the incident, his father Abu Sayeed filed a murder case at the Dawlatpur Police station against 12 people and some unknown assailants.
When the current government came to power, the 12 accused claimed that it was a politically motivated case and they deserved to be free. Following their appeal, the District Commissioner, Police Superintendent and the Public Prosecutor (PP) petitioned the home ministry for withdrawal of the charges. In light of this petition, the Assistant Secretary of the Home Ministry requested the PP of Manikganj to take the necessary measures for dropping the charges against the accused. As per the decision of the Home Ministry, the PP appealed to the judges for withdrawing the names of the 12 accused. Charges against the 12 prisoners were dropped.
The Awami League vice president of the district Abdus Salam, also a PP, expressed his satisfaction with the decision, “Although neither the plaintiff and the defendants were directly involved with politics, the prisoners are victims of political vindictiveness. This is why a petition was forwarded to have their cases withdrawn.”
However, no one in the locality can identify anyone except Joynal Abedin as being involved in politics. Chorkatari Union Chhatra League Vice president Abu Bakr Siddique has said that save for Advocate Joynal Abedin, none of them was involved with politics. He however said this group took many favours from Awami League leaders.
The Upazila Awami League president Azizul Haque also claimed that he was in the dark concerning the identity of the 11 convicts. He however assured that Joynal was the Law secretary of Daulutprur Upaizela.
Majumdar also suggests that there are allegations of financial dealings behind many of the cases that are recommended to be withdrawn.
“Many citizens expected that the present government would not follow the path of the past governments and withdraw cases against their leaders and activists. The best way would have been to allow the accused to have their day in court. If the accused were not really guilty of the alleged crime/s, they would have been found innocent. That would have been consistent with the rule of law,” Majumdar says. “The law should take its own course but unfortunately that is not the reality. The present government says it is committed to its charter for change, but unfortunately that has not been the reality in the last two years.”
(R) thedailystar.net 2010