Under pressure to drop case?
It was a dreadful day for her as her husband “died from torture” in Rab custody.
She was at home in Kaibartapara of Naogaon's Manda upazila, but could do nothing to save him from torture.
Ten days later, she somehow managed to file a murder case with a Naogaon court. She accused a Rab official, 25 unnamed members of the elite force and eight locals of killing her husband Majharul Islam.
The incident happened nearly five months ago. And now, she fears she may lose another member of her family as the Rapid Action Battalion members allegedly have been threatening them with “crossfire” if the case is not withdrawn.
Talking to The Daily Star, Shamima Akter, mother of a five-year-old son, complained that Rab members recently picked up her brother and took her to the Naogaon court to press her to drop the case.
She said Rab-5 Director Lt Col Mahbubul Alam offered money to her, assured her of looking after her son's education and arranging a government job for him once he is grown up in exchange for withdrawing the case.
However, the Rab official claimed none of the allegations was true.
“As my fellow force members have been accused of murder, it is quite natural that I will seek withdrawal of the case. But it has to be done under legal provisions, rather than by using force or threat,” he said.
Majharul, aged about 30, died at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital early on September 8 last year, hours after a team of Rab-5 arrested him near his village home in Naogaon's Manda upazila.
Previously an expatriate in Malaysia, he returned home seven years ago and got involved in farming. He was never accused in any criminal case.
According to his family, a feud developed between Majharul and some locals over felling of trees by the Palli Bidyut Samity to set up electrical poles along a village road. Majharul protested the cutting of trees going beyond the project plan.
Shamima said she went to her brother's house in Rajshahi city's Dangapara area on January 27 on information that the Rab-5 director, also the commanding officer of the unit, wanted her to visit him.
The following day, she along with her sister met the CO at the Rajshahi Rab headquarters.
Asking the family to drop the case, the Rab official said in return he would give her some money, arrange good education and a government job for Majharul's son once he is grown up.
Shamima returned home seeking time to make a decision in this regard.
'BROTHER PICKED UP'
On Monday morning, plainclothes Rab men allegedly picked up Shamima's brother FKH Alam when he went out of home.
Shamima rushed to the Rajshahi Rab headquarters to know about her brother's whereabouts. The Rab officials assured her of ensuring Alam's safety if she agreed to drop the case.
“I realised that if I stick to fighting the legal battle against the Rab men, I might lose another member of my family.”
A day later, the Rab-5 chief took her to the Naogaon court and tried all day to convince her to withdraw the case, added Shamima.
She was taken back to Rajshahi around 7:00pm. Hours later, some Rab men dropped off her brother at home.
On the same day, a plainclothes Rab team allegedly raided the house of Majharul's sister in Bhariapara of Naogaon town.
They searched all the rooms of the house looking for his sister Shahanara Parvin and her husband Hafizur Rahman, said Majharul's elder brother Azaharul Islam.
He alleged that an unknown caller phoned him at night and threatened with dire consequences and crossfire if the case was not withdrawn.
“We have been passing our days in fear of being killed since my brother's death.”
Lt Col Mahbubul claimed he did not meet Shamima on January 28 and accompany her to the Naogaon court.
“I was in Rajshahi throughout that day. The person who was said to have been picked up is a free man now. He is in the city. Ask him to know what he has to say.”
About the offers allegedly made to Shamima, the Rab official said, “How will I manage a government job for her son? I can arrange good education for him, but she didn't come to me with any such prayer.”
Contacted, Alam told this correspondent over the phone yesterday afternoon that he would give his comments later.
Seeking anonymity, a lawyer said murder cases are non-compoundable and cannot be negotiated as per the law.
“Still people negotiate murder cases by arranging fake or weak witnesses,” he added.
According to the case statement, the accused beat up Majharul with sticks and iron rods at his house in Naogaon's Manda upazila around 7:00pm on September 8 last year.
They arrested and tortured him to force him to surrender his “illegal firearms”.
Around 2:00am, the Rab members took badly injured Majharul out of the house.
Around 7:00am the following day, the family was informed by law enforcers that Majharul had passed away and his body was at Rajshahi Medical College morgue.
Shamima yesterday said she did not see the autopsy report of her husband.
The physician who carried out the autopsy at Rajshahi Medical College refused to make any comment about the reason of Majharul's death.
Meanwhile, the Naogaon court on January 15 ordered Manda Police Station to record the complaint as a regular case and probe the death of Majharul.
Anisur Rahman, OC of the police station, yesterday said they were yet to receive the court's order.