Defence witnesses say they were tortured in custody

Bangladesh on 25 September 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : New Age. Image Source: Steve Rhode

An accused as a defence witness told a sessions court trying the BDR carnage case on Tuesday that he was brutally tortured in the custody by law enforcers after being arrested in the connection with the case ten days after the February 25-26, 2009 mutiny ended.

The accused, Abdul Jalil Sheikh, 61, who defended himself as a defence witness, told the court about the incident that he witnessed and what action he had carried out after the mutiny broke out on the morning of February 25, 2009 from the Darbar Hall, where the then BDR chief was holding the annual gathering as part of BDR Week.

On the day, the court of additional metropolitan sessions judge-3, Akhtaruzzman, at the makeshift courtroom at Bakshibazar recorded the depositions of 16 defence witnesses for 10 accused.  
Wife for husband, brother for brother, sister for brother and other relatives and neighbours made the depositional statements, among others.

Jalil, who appeared in the witness-box with a crutch on the day, was posted at the BDR hospital as quarter master. 

Jalil claimed that he sustained bullet injuries on his left leg by ‘masked-armed miscreants’ when he had refused to get onto a pick-van.

He was confined in Rifles Police Check post at Gate-4 at unconscious state and later was moved to Holy Family Red Crescent Hospital for treatment where he stayed until he was arrested by a Rapid Action Battalion team on March 5, 2009.

Jalil alleged that he was brought blindfolded to the Rapid Action Battalion-2 headquarters, where he was tortured.

‘I was beaten so seriously that my leg was broken… I was given electric shock, my nails in both hands and legs were uprooted…,’ he said. Jalil wanted to produce one of the nails of his right leg that he had collected as evidences.

But the court, however, did not keep the nail as evidence as it said that ‘it is humanly impossible to collect the nail after going through such torture.’
Being refused, Jalil submitted the documents of his treatment to the court.

He also claimed that he was asked to be a witness and as he refused he was named as an accused.

Like Abdul Jalil, another accused Sheikh Aiyub Ali, 40, also made depositional statement in the court. Aiyub Ali said he ran away from the Darbar Hall after trouble triggered shortly after the then BDR chief started addressing the annual gathering.

He said that after getting out of the Darbar hall at about 9:35am he had first phoned BA 1478 Brigadier General SM Golam Rabbani, a former deputy director general of the BDR who returned to army on completion his deputation in the paramilitary force, and informed him that the then chief, Shakil Ahmed, who was later found shot dead, had come under attack by a group of masked-armed ‘miscreants.’ 

He sought suggestion from Rabbani about what he should do in this circumstances.

Golam Rabbani asked him to take safe position and not to take part in the trouble, Aiyub said, quoting Rabbani, who had been stationed at army headquarters.

Since he returned to his official quarters inside the Peelkhana, Aiyub said he had been communicating with a number of senior military officers including Lieutenant General Jahangir Alam Choudhury, the then principal staff officer of army, and Colonel Mizan, both were once deputed in BDR, which was later renamed as Border Guard Bangladesh.

During cross examination, Aiyub said once he served General Jahangir and Golam Rabbani as runner when the officers were deputed in the paramilitary force.

Aiyub also said that the officers from army HQ had inquired about situation inside the Peelkhana but he had failed to give details.

Amid the objection from the prosecution, Aiyub repeatedly requested the court to listen why and how he was named an accused.

Nearly one year after the mutiny, the defence witness said he was called by the acting commanding officer of Headquarters Rifles, Major Mazhar, on February 19, 2010 and was asked be a prosecution witness.

‘As I refused to be a prosecution witness as I am unwilling to tell lie… later I was named as an accused and was arrested on February 22, 2010 by Criminal Investigation Department,’ he said.    
Another defence witness, made deposition for Monoranjan Sarkar, told the court that they had given shelter to BDR physician Lieutenant Colonel Ismat Ara at their quarters.

Ismat put on customary bangles of Hindu community in her hands and put shindur on forehead to take a look as a Hindu woman and stayed in the house taking name as ‘Kamona,’ the septuagenarian, Basanti Rani Sarker said. 

The court adjourned till today.

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