While family members of road safety campaigner Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury sought the prime minister's intervention for his release in an extortion case, police yesterday moved to show him arrested in another case filed in February.
Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a passenger welfare platform, also wants the PM to step in to have him freed.
Besides, it demanded a judicial inquiry into the “false” extortion case and punishment of those who “implicated”
Mozammel, general secretary of the Samity.
At a press conference, organised by the platform at the Jatiya Press Club around noon, Mozammel's wife Rizu Akhter Chowdhury said, “I am not in a position to talk. My husband is kept in jail as he worked for the cause of passengers.”
“ … I am requesting the prime minister to ensure the unconditional release of my husband,” she said and broke down in tears.
Around the same time, Sub-Inspector Kazi Raihanur Rahman of Kafrul Police Station filed a petition with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court of Dhaka to show Mozammel arrested in a case filed for creating anarchy.
Raihanur, investigation officer (IO) of the case, also sought a 10-day remand for the arrestee.
The court fixed Thursday for hearing the plea.
The case, filed with Kafrul Police Station on February 4, accuses over 50 people of committing anarchy. Mozammel's name was not included in the First Information Report.
Now in jail, Mozammel, a resident of Narayanganj's Siddhirganj, has already been remanded for a day after his arrest on Thursday for extortion, a charge his wife and fellow road safety campaigners termed false.
In the case statement, complainant Md Dulal, a lineman at a bus stop, alleged that Mozammel, claiming to be a transport leader, demanded Tk 2 lakh from him, and he gave the accused Tk 10,000 in front of Sony Cinema Hall in Mirpur on September 3.
Dulal, however, told reporters that Mozammel was not familiar to him and that he had signed a computer-typed paper without knowing what was written on it. He did that “following directives from two leaders of transport workers”.
The lineman later found that the paper he signed was the case statement.
Speaking at yesterday's press conference, eminent human rights activist Sultana Kamal said Mozammel took a stance against the anarchy in the transport sector and deaths on roads, forming the Jatri Kalyan Samity.
“… There was no anti-government element here,” she said, adding, “When such a man is arrested and put on remand by a state or by an organ [of the state], we become astonished.”
Sultana, also a former advisor to a caretaker government, then said such an incident happened in a country where the government, through different media outlets, regularly says it is upholding democracy and has achieved incomparable development. “… Such development was achieved that more than 10 people are being killed on roads every day!”
She also said the road transport and bridges minister recently told parliament that a Jatri Kalyan Samity report on road accidents was “fake”. “If that was so, then why Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had to issue directives to prevent road accident?”
“If all were fake, why the minister held a meeting over the issue a few days ago?
“That means this issue is something to be concerned. We had expressed that concern. Is this a punishable offence? Is this a criminal offence? Won't we be able to talk in this country even if we have to face torture, anarchy and defamation?” she questioned.
“We won't talk. If you say anything, you will be punished. If this is the situation, they should kindly refrain from saying that they are upholding democracy in the country.”
Sultana demanded immediate release of Mozammel.
Reading out a written statement at the press conference, Shamsuddin Chowdhury, a member of Jatri Kalyan Samity's executive committee, said three Bulgarian ministers resigned recently after a road accident left 17 people dead in that country.
But in Bangladesh, nobody is held accountable for the death of hundreds of people in road crashes, he said.
Mozammel's “offence” was that he sought justice for those being killed on roads and an end to the anarchy in the transport sector, Shamsuddin said, adding that the 16 crore people of this country “have been held hostage by a vested quarter” which was threatening Mozammel not to raise voice.
“But such threats could not deter Mozammel from working for passengers' rights. That's why the false extortion case was filed against him.”
Zonayed Saki, chief coordinator of Ganosamhati Andolon, said Mozammel faced wrath as he worked against the interested of a vested quarter.
THE NEW CASE
Maruf Hossain, sub-inspector of Kafrul Police Station, filed the case under the Special Powers Act and Explosive Substances Act against 11 named and 40 to 45 unnamed people.
According to the case documents, the accused were holding a meeting at Mirpur-13 near the office of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) on February 4 for carrying out subversive activities to create anarchy in the country.
They hurled petrol bombs on vehicles to damage people's property and the government's image, the documents read.
Police arrested one of the accused, Abidur Ahsan Abid, from the spot. Sources said he later obtained bail from the High Court.
In his yesterday's petition to show Mozammel arrested in the case, IO Kazi Raihanur Rahman claimed evidence proves that Mozammel along with other listed accused was present on the spot and carried out the offence.
He needed to be shown arrested in the case and put on a 10-day remand to unravel the mystery over the incident happened in February, the police officer said in the plea.
Asked why they did not arrest Mozammel in the last seven months, he told The Daily Star, “We did not get him. We tried to arrest him but did not get him. We took action when we came to know about his arrest from Mirpur police.”
During all these months, the road safety campaigner spoke at several press conferences in the capital. When his attention was drawn to it, Raihanur said, “It's not possible for us to follow a person all the time… We always don't get such scope …”
He also could not say how many of the accused in the case are in jail. “I need to check documents,” he said.