Police were yet to arrest any of the five accused in the Banani double rape case but an owner and employees of a hotel claimed they saw prime suspect Ahmed Shafat in Sylhet city on Monday.
“Five youths came to our hotel and looked for a room around 2:00pm. But we didn't give them that as they refused to show us their national ID cards,” Mobarak Hossain, who works at Regent Park Resort, told The Daily Star over phone yesterday.
After the five left, the hotel employees checked newspapers and discovered that one of the youths was Shafat, he said.
Meanwhile, Kazi Reazul Hoque, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, yesterday alleged that police showed negligence in taking timely action against the accused.
Shafat, son of one of the owners of Apan Jewellers, is the main accused in the case filed for raping two private university students in a posh hotel in the capital's Banani on March 28.
His friend Nayem Ashraf, victims' friend Shadman Sakif, who introduced the girls to the “rapists” early March, Shafat's driver Billal and body guard Azad are the other accused in the case filed with Banani Police Station.
Asked, a top police official, preferring anonymity, told The Daily Star they had information that some of the accused visited Sylhet after the case was filed. A team from Dhaka along with the local police was trying to arrest them, he said.
Mobarak said the five youths, who were wearing pants and shirts, went to the hotel in a microbus. They had no luggage. They walked straight to the reception and inquired about room for rent.
When the receptionists told them the daily rent ranged between Tk 5,000 and Tk 20,000, one of the youths said, “Money is not an issue. Arrange a good room for us.”
Asked, none of the youths gave ID cards or any other relevant documents. As the hotel authorities refused to give them any room, they were locked into an altercation, said Mobarak and other hotel staff.
A few minutes later, the youths left the hotel. Mobarak said their behaviour was suspicious and some of the hotel staff had the feeling that they had seen Shafat somewhere. It led them to check newspapers and discover that one of the youths was the prime accused.
The incident came to the fore after some online news portals reported it.
It is not clear whether the four other youths were the rest of the accused in the case.
Helal Uddin Ahmed, owner of the hotel, said the under-construction building did not have any CCTV camera.
Contacted, Rafiqul Islam, assistant commissioner of police (Gulshan zone), told The Daily Star that several police teams were working in several districts to arrest the accused.
Mehedi Hasan, caretaker of Shafat's house in Gulshan, said the alleged rapist, aged around 25, went there last on Sunday, a day after the case was filed. Later, he left in a car.
Meanwhile, BM Farman Ali, officer-in-charge of Banani Police Station, went on a five-day leave yesterday amid allegation from the girls that there was an underhand dealing between some officials of the police station and the accused.
Police denied the allegation.
Abdul Ahad, additional deputy commissioner of police (Gulshan division), said the OC took the leave citing family reasons. He, however, could not say when Farman applied for that.
One of the girls also alleged that the police officials tried to brand them as bad girls when she went to the police station for filing the case in the afternoon of May 4. After dilly-dallying, police recorded the case on May 6.
Meanwhile, a team from Banani police raided Shafat's home yesterday afternoon. After the raid, Sub-inspector Milton Dutta said they were looking for the passport of the accused, which was not there.
Invited to Shafat's birthday party on March 28, the girls went to the Banani hotel around 9:00pm. After the rooftop party ended around midnight, the accused raped the girls in two hotel rooms at gunpoint, alleges one of the girls.
NHRC BLASTS POLICE
National Human Rights Commission chief Kazi Reazul Hoque yesterday said the Banani rape case was a shocking incident but police taking two days to register the case was even more shocking.
“Police dilly-dallied [for filing the case] for 48 hours. It's not acceptable,” he told a programme in Khulna, reports our correspondent there.