Abul Hossain languished in prison for 22 years for no crimes. High Court acquitted him 10 years back. But the court order lost its way to jail gate.
Dhaka, 16 Feb 2012: Now free at around fifty after having lost the prime of his life in jail, Abul Hossain recounts how corruption and over-exercise of power by a section of policemen and some employees in the judiciary pushed him into a fate almost worse than death.
The simple uneducated man had to pass his 22 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, as is proved by his ultimate acquittal after so long a time.
“I did not commit the murder. But I had to go to jail. I went to jail in my youth. Now I am nearly 50. I could not even marry. They have destroyed my life,” said the middle-aged man, one of those implicated in the case of murder of his neighbour Altaf Mia.
The High Court had acquitted him, but the authorities apparently did not care for his release. He walked to freedom at the Supreme Court’s intervention.
He says corruption and over-exercise of power by some in the police and the judiciary resulted in the miscarriage of justice.
An investigation by daily sun also found that greed of some selfish persons in society, lack of education and a psychological gap between people and the government functionaries were responsible for the injustice.
According to the case history, the body of Altaf Mia was found on 15 May 1988 near the residence of neighbour Abul Hossain in Mothurandanga village of Satkania in Chittagong.
An unnatural death case was filed in this connection. Later, then sub-inspector Rezaul Karim of Satkania Police Station filed an FIR, implicating a number of persons from Abul Hossain’s family.
Police arrested a number of persons, including siblings Abul Hossain, Abul Hashem and Abul Kalam, their father Yusuf Ali and uncles Ishak Ali and Idris Ali.
Kalam, then only 12, spent 17 days in jail. Police allegedly tortured the boy mercilessly to get a confessional statement.
Yusuf Ali, the father, had to stay in jail for three months—and he was also tortured.
“My octogenarian father still feels the pain from the beatings. He has to take painkiller regularly,” said Hashem, the eldest son.
“We had to give police Tk 50,000 for my father’s release. Second officer SI Bhupal Babu took the money. We had to sell almost all our property to arrange the amount,” he added.
“ There was no SI named Bhupal Babu in 1988 at the police station”, claimed OC Abdul Khalek.
The accused in the case were uneducated and inexperienced in the matters of offices or courts. It was because of this case that they visited Chittagong city nearly 30 kilometres away from their village. Many people in the “foreign” place took the opportunity of their naivety to deceive them.
The state had appointed advocate Dipak Chowdhury to defend Abul Hossain and Abul Hashem as the accused were not solvent enough to hire a lawyer.
But Hashem or Hossain, or anybody of their family, for that matter, never even knew the fact. They did not know Dipak because the lawyer never talked to them.
It is not clear how advocate Dipak prepared the case for defending his clients without talking to them ever.
When asked, Dipak recently told daily sun that he had not contacted the accused assigned to him by the state as he had no intention to take money from them.
In their last effort to free Abul Hossain, Hashem recently met advocate Nur Ahmed, a lawyer hailed from Satkania, who practises in the High Court.
“I gave Tk 15,000 to advocate Nur Ahmed 12 days before Eid-ul-Azha. Hossain was released 14 days after Eid. The contract with the lawyer was actually Tk 20,000, but Abul Hossain came out of jail before I gave him the rest of the money,” Hashem said.
Mohona Khatun, their mother, borrowed the money from Grameen Bank. A few people in the area also collected a sum to help them out, said family members and local people.
Advocate Nur Ahmed, however, denied having taken any money from them. “Mahmud Islam, a youth from Satkania, brought Hashem to me. Mahmud was known to me, and I knew he was not honest and dependable. I agreed to appeal in the High Court. I charged the minimum sum of Tk 15,000 as the expenses of collecting case documents and moving an appeal,” he said.
Nur Ahmed said, “I appointed my clerk to find the case documents, and he came to know that the High Court had already acquitted him [Hossain] 10 years ago. I met with the Supreme Court registrar and informed him about it. He might have taken the initiative later to release the innocent victim.
“As I did not have to process any appeal petition, I returned Tk 9,000 to Mahmud, who may have deceived Abul Hashem,” he said.
Mahmud could not be contacted for his comment.
“At first I was in Chittagong jail,” said Abul Hossain. “Later, I was shifted to Comilla Central Jail. In 2006, I was sent to Sylhet jail for treatment. I was brought back to Chittagong jail in 2007.
“I did not kill Altaf. Then why was I jailed? Sometimes, I would become angry, but to whom should I show my anger! I mourned. I would just pray to God for justice,” a disillusioned Abul told daily Sun.
“I told my tale to other prisoners. Some of them suggested that I appeal through the jail authorities. So, when I was in Sylhet jail I appealed through the jail super. I filed petitions with the High Court several times. But nobody told me that the High Court had already acquitted me,” he said.
Pointing to the tea stall this correspondent was interviewing Hossain in, he said, “I was here when the dead body of Altaf was found in a field in the evening. Everybody knows it. Along with many people I rushed to see the dead body.”
Ramjan Ali, 70, the owner of the tea stall, had the same tale to tell. “It was 28th Ramadan. At about 8:30pm, we heard that Altaf had been killed and his body was lying in a cropland. When we heard the news, Abul Hossain was here.”
Many elderly people, who gathered there, repeated the same tale.
“I want trial of those who made me suffer although I had not committed any crime,” said Abul Hossain, caring little to suppress his inner anguish.
Abul Hossain’s family have gone through undue sufferings unnecessarily. The man who was killed is also yet to get justice as the law enforcers failed to detect the real killer.
All who know now came to the conclusion that the executive failed to ensure good governance. The judiciary failed to ensure justice. Thus the state apparently failed to ensure the wellbeing of its citizens.
By Pulack Ghatack, courtesy: Daily Sun