The family of a 33-year-old man has accused Rab members of torturing him to death in custody in Chattogram city.
Rab, however, refuted the allegation, and claimed that the man was a mugger and he had been beaten up by a mob during a mugging attempt before Rab members arrested him on Akhtaruzzaman Flyover in Muradpur area on August 15 evening.
The arrestee, Md Akram, 33, son of Saleh Ahmed, from Chattogram's Banshkhali upazila, complained of chest pain during a drive the following day and died at Chattogram Medical College hospital while receiving treatment, said the elite force.
But witnesses say he was not beaten up by a mob. The documents of the unnatural death case, filed by a Rab official, also doesn't mention anything about mob beating.
Seeking anonymity, a top official of the Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) said they have no information on any incident of mob beating in Muradpur area on that day.
Akram's family members said he had worked at an apparel factory for eight years but became unemployed after the factory was closed down during the Covid-19 shutdown. Later, he took the job of a mason to support his family.
He used to live alone in the port city's Bayezid Bostami area while his wife and 14-month-old child live in his village home in Banshkhali upazila.
He had never been involved in any criminal activities, they claimed.
Inspector Abdul Haque from Rab-7 filed the unnatural death case with Panchlaish Police Station on August 16 following Akram's death.
According to the case statement, Akram was arrested by a Rab team on the flyover during a mugging attempt around 4:30pm on August 15. Three persons handed him over to the Rab team that took him in custody.
Acting on Akram's information, Rab personnel, taking him with them, conducted drives in different areas of the city to arrest his cohorts. At one stage of the drive in Shershah area, Akram fell sick and complained of chest pain.
Around 12:15am on August 16, he was admitted to the CMCH's Medicine Ward where he died around 1:00pm, the case statement said.
It, however, didn't mention anything about beating up of Akram by a mob before his arrest.
Executive Magistrate Ali Hasan, who prepared an inquest report on Akram at the morgue, said, "Black marks were found in his legs -- from foot up to knee -- and his bottom. There were black marks also on his back.
"The reason behind his death will be known after post-mortem," he mentioned.
Sub-Inspector Maheuddin Alamin of Panchlaish Police Station had also prepared an inquest report before handing over the body to Akram's family.
Police declined to disclose the contents of the report.
STATEMENTS OF WITNESSES
This correspondent talked to two of the three witnesses, whose names were mentioned in the case statement. They said Akram was not beaten up before his arrest.
"I, along with my cousin, was crossing Akhtaruzzaman flyover on my motorbike on August 15 afternoon. At one point, my motorbike got tangled in threads that are used by muggers as traps to rob bikers. I had to stop my motorbike," said Liton Chowdhury, one of the witnesses.
"We then noticed a man [Akram] running away from near the spot. Suspecting him to be a mugger, we stopped him. A few moments later, we saw a Rab vehicle crossing the flyover. We then handed the man over to Rab."
"There was no incident of mob beating…," he said.
Liton's cousin Raktim Chowdhury, 26, another witness in the case, said the same thing to this correspondent.
WHAT HIS FAMILY SAYS
Akram's maternal uncle Nasir Uddin Chowdhury said, "On August 16 afternoon, Akram's wife got a call from a man who introduced himself as a Rab member. When I called that number, the man told me that Akram was beaten up by a mob during a mugging attempt on the flyover and died at the CMCH."
"When we examined his body before burial in Banshkhali, we saw marks of brutal torture on the body. We found bruises on his bottom, arms and legs…
"Akram was tortured to death. He is neither a mugger nor a drug abuser. We want justice. We demand a fair probe to find out the truth," Nasir said.
Akram's elder brother Md Sikandar said, "They [Rab] did not explain how my brother died… The body was handed over to me after I signed papers provided by police."
Talking to this newspaper, Sultan Gani Chowdhury, chairman of Puichhari Union Parishad, said, "As far as I know, Akram had never been involved in any criminal activities. He was a very simple person. I never got any complaint against him."
VERSION OF RAB-7
Rab-7 Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Moshiour Rahman Jewel said, "He [Akram] was a mugger. He was caught on the flyover during a mugging attempt. After his arrest, Rab members, taking him with them, conducted drives in two places of the city to detain the other gang members."
"He was admitted to the CMCH after he had complained of chest pain. He died later."
Asked about the marks on Akram's body, Moshiour said, "We heard that he had been beaten up by a mob after his capture. The marks found during inquest were minor, not significant."
He further said the death certificate provided by the doctor mentioned that Akram died from septic shock.
The Rab official admitted that Akram had no criminal record and there was no case against him.
Contacted, CMP Commissioner Mahabubor Rahman said, "Police are waiting for the post-mortem report. The unnatural death case will be turned into a murder case if the report describes it as homicide."
According to police and Rab sources, law enforcers arrested at least 36 alleged muggers on Akhtaruzzaman flyover in the last one month.