All Abu Zafor Sikder wanted was justice for his son killed in a 2014 “shootout”. The 60-year-old owner of a small pharmacy in the capital’s Dania fought a strenuous legal battle for nearly five long years.
Zafor was resolute about doing what he had to do, ignoring threats and offers of money and settlement.
The father of three finally gave up in May this year after his another son was implicated in a drug case. He agreed on an out-of-the-court settlement, according to the family members.
“I tried my best to get justice for the killing of my son but nothing happened. Now I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Zafor told this correspondent recently.
“All I can say is both my sons are innocent,” he added.
Zafor admitted that there was a settlement but declined to comment further on it.
His eldest son, Mesbah Uddin Tarek,a 24-year-old garment worker, was killed in Mugda in a “shootout” on September 14, 2014, hours after detectives had picked him up from his Dania residence. He had been preparing to fly to Malaysia for a job.
According to police statement, Tarek was an arms dealer, what his family members rejected outright.
They alleged that detectives killed Tarek over a dispute with Salma Begum,thenan official with the rank of police superintendent, and her husband.
Tarek had no case or general diary filed against him.
Soon after his death, Zafor went to Kadamtali Police Station to file a case but police did not accept it. On September 25, he filed the case with a Dhaka court against 10 persons, including seven DB men.
In the case statement, Zafor said Salma’s family was angry with them as they had refused to sell her their homestead near her land in Dania.
He also alleged that a team of detectives influenced by Salma and her husband killed his son.
The couple and the detectives named in the case denied the allegations. The officers maintained it was an incident of “shootout”.
Since filing of the case, some of the accused and their associates kept putting pressure on Zafor to settle it as some of the officers in question were being denied promotion and chance to join the UN peacekeeping mission because of this, police sources said.
In April this year, Kadamtali police arrested his another son Shihab Uddin Tanjil, who was also a witness in the case, on the charge of selling drugs. He is now behind bars.
Family members say Tanjil was framed to hush Zafor.
On May 23, Zafor was taken to an office of an autonomous institution at Segunbagicha where the two sides reached a settlement. Six days later, he went to the court to give his statement, said his relatives and neighbours.
In the statement, Zafor said he didn’t have a complaint anymore. And that both parties agreed not to do anything out of vengeance in future, according to court sources.
For this, the accused gave Zafor Tk 20 lakh though they had pledged Tk 25 lakh, said his relatives and neighbours on condition of anonymity.
“How long an ill-fated father could continue legal battle against all odds? He had to agree on the settlement to save his other son,” a relative of Zafor told The Daily Star.
People hardly raise voice -- let alone file cases -- over the killing of near ones in incidents like “shootout”.
But Zafor fought tooth and nail.
The 10 persons made accused in his case included Salma Begum, her husband Khairul Alam Tutul and Tutul’s brother-in-law Abdul Ahad Sohrab, and seven DB men -- Assistant Commissioner AKM Mahbubur Rahman, Inspector Nibaran Chandra Barman, Sub-Inspector Shaheen Md Amanullah, Assistant Sub-Inspector Md Aktaruzzaman, and constables Asadul Haq, Momtaz Uddin and Khairul Islam.
Soon after the so-called shootout, DB officials -- Nibaran and Amanullah -- filed two cases with Mugda Police Station against Tarek and four others for “firing on police and possessing firearms”.
Zafor came to know the names of the seven DB menfrom the statements of these two cases.
For years, he shuttled between the court and home, repeatedly refusing offers of money -- up to Tk 1 crore -- by the accused, said his relatives.
In April 2017, one of the witnesses in the case filed by Zafor was arrested and sent to jail under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Khondoker Nayeem, the witness, came out on bail 11 months later, cut ties with Zafor and declined to give any testimony, saying he was arrested for being the witness, added the sources.
Zafor still would not budge. He pleaded the court for a judicial probe as he doubted if a proper investigation would be carried out by law enforcers against their own colleagues.
Three police personnel, including two officials with the rank of additional SP from Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI), investigated Tarek’s killing.
“During the probe, it was found that no case or general diary was filed against Tarek. There is no allegation by the locals against him either,” Afrida Rubai, the first investigation officer and then additional SP of CID, mentioned in her report.
The report submitted to court on August 16, 2016, also stated that Zafor had land dispute with Salma but they did not find any evidence that she influenced detectives to arrest him.
Zafor filed a naraji (no-confidence) petition and sought judicial probe and the court handed the case to PBI for probe.
After investigating around a year, then additional SP SM Shafiul Azam of PBI did not submit any probe report or findings.
He returned the case documents to the court in October 2017, with the opinion that the case filed by Zafor should be investigated alongside the two cases filed by Nibaran and Amanullah.
The complainant filed another naraji petition and pleaded for a judicial probe once again. Around a year later, the court again asked PBI to reinvestigate.
PBI asked Inspector Hamid Uddin Ahmed to carry out the investigation. But he did not make any progress in the investigation and submitted a report to the court, saying he was not getting any witnesses.
Talking to The Daily Star earlier this month, Hamid admitted that the complainant and the accused reached a settlement.
“As they reached the settlement, I submitted a report. The court then closed the case,” said Hamid.
Asked about his finding, the PBI official said only Zafor and his wife gave testimonies but the other witnesses including Nayeem refused to do so.
“So, we got nothing significant.”
WHERE ARE THE ACCOMPLICES?
The statements of two cases filed by the DB officials mentioned Bristol, Kalu, Bhagina Rubel, and Noakhailla Rocky as Tarek’s accomplices.
A seven-member DB team led by Mahbub picked up Tarek from his Dania residence on September 14, 2014. Hours later, they took him to Manda area to “recover firearms”, DB men said in the statements, adding they said they saw the four accomplices there.
“As we saw four of his accomplices, we allowed Tarek to go for bringing the firearms as part of our strategy,” read the statements.
“Taking firearms from his accomplices, Tarek indiscriminately shot at police.”
Police fired back, triggering a “gunfight that left Tarek dead”. His four accomplices fled away, according to statements of the two cases.
But after five years of investigation, investigators could not find trace of the “four accomplices”.
“We did not find any of them in our investigation … As the complainant [Zafor] had negotiation in the case filed with the court, we submitted final reports,” CID Inspector Nur Islam, also the investigation officer of the cases, said earlier this month.
“If we get any clue about the four accused, we will reopen the case.”
Salma, now additional commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police, on Thursday said she and her husband are innocent, and in no way involved in the incident. Zafor might have brought the allegation being influenced by others after the death of his son.
Replying to a query, she said, “I am unaware of any settlement.”
Mahbub, now a deputy director of Anti-Corruption Commission, also denied the allegation that the detectives killed Zafor’s son over land dispute.
About the settlement, he said, “The man has grown old. They have withdrawn the complaint as they do not want to pursue it.”