Ajmat Ali, who spent the last decade in jail despite being given a presidential amnesty in 1991, was released from jail yesterday.
The first thing the former teacher from Jamalpur’s Sharishabari upazila did after he stepped out of prison was look up towards the blue sky.
Ajmat was freed a day after the Supreme Court (SC) directed the government to release him immediately.
“We released Ajmat from jail around 11:30am after we received the Supreme Court order this morning [yesterday],” said Mokhlesur Rahman, superintendent of Jamalpur Jail.
Since news of his release broke, family members of the schoolteacher and reporters began arriving at the jail from around 9:00am. As soon as Ajmat came out, his daughter Beauty Akter ran over to him and hugged him tightly.
The reunion, 10 years in the making, visibly moved them both.
It was, however, a bittersweet one. “Being freed may be a matter of joy, but for me it came with a lot of sorrow. Ten years of my life was lost in this jail. What did my education bring me?”, the 71-year old said.
Ajmat said he was let go with 70,000 others when the presidential clemency was granted, but he did not know why he had to spend 10 additional years in jail.
“I want justice,” he said.
His daughter Beauty said, “His life was spent in jail and he is now an old man.”
Earlier on Monday, the SC observed that the decision of sending Ajmat to jail even after getting the order of release from jail custody in view of the presidential general amnesty was “unjustified and unfortunate”.
A six-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, passed the order on June 27 on a review petition filed by Ajmat Ali.
On June 7, 1987, Ajmat was made an accused in a murder case in Pakhimara village in Sharishabari upazila.
Ajmat could not afford a lawyer. So he remained in jail.
Subsequently, a Jamalpur court sentenced him to life on March 8, 1989.
He appealed against his conviction before the High Court Division of the SC.
While the appeal was still pending, he was freed under the presidential amnesty granted on January 14, 1991, in the name of the then acting president Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed.
Ajmat was freed on August 21, 1996. Later in March 2005, he was acquitted of the murder charges by the HC.
In 2006, however, the government challenged the HC Division verdict with the Appellate Division of the SC, which ordered his arrest in 2008.
Ajmat’s life as a prisoner began again in October 2009 after police arrested him and produced him before a Jamalpur court, which sent him to the same Jamalpur jail.
In August 2010, the Appellate Division scrapped the HC judgment and upheld the lower court verdict, saying the HC was wrong in its decision.
The SC order on Monday ended Ajmat’s decades long struggle.