Blogger Oyasiqur killing: Complainant ‘unavailable’
Seven years into the murder of secularist blogger Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, the complainant of the case appears uninterested in justice and the police are clueless about his whereabouts.
Till July 24, the court summoned the complainant, Monir Hossain Masud, 63 times and even ordered his arrest, only to get his all-important testimony. And the prosecution and the police could not produce him, stating every time that he has been living in Saudi Arabia, according to court documents.
But Masud, who is a cousin and also the brother-in-law of Oyasiqur, now lives in Dhaka and The Daily Star caught up with him in Arambagh area, where he runs a grocery shop.
"I went to Saudi Arabia almost a month after the case was filed and returned home one and a half years ago. I did not get any court order since then," Masud told this newspaper recently.
He, however, showed his reluctance in testifying before the court. "Actually, I have no interest in the case now," he said without any elaboration.
According to the FIR, Masud's permanent address is Uttar Hazipur under Ramganj upazila in Lakshmipur.
Opting not to be named, a few of his acquaintances in the locality said Masud's attitude towards the brutal killing changed abruptly after he somehow become convinced that Oyasiqur was killed for "anti-Islamic writings".
"Anti-Islamic writings" was the twisted justification of fundamentalists who went on the killing spree targeting bloggers and free-thinkers since 2013.
Armed with machetes, a gang of banned militant outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ATB) hacked Oyasiqur, known for his secularist views and write-ups against fundamentalists in online spheres, in broad daylight at the Tejgaon industrial area on March 30, 2015.
Locals caught two of the attackers on the spot and handed them over to the police.
It was a year that witnessed three more killings of secularist bloggers -- Avijit Roy on February 26, Ananta Bijoy Das on May 12, Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy on August 7 -- and also Faisal Arefin Dipan, publisher of Avijit's books, on October 31.
Masud filed a murder case against four named and some unknown persons with the Tejgaon Industrial Police Station on the day of the attack.
"We are yet to present the first information report before the court as the complainant did not appear for testimony despite repeated court summons and non-bailable arrest warrants," Assistant Public Prosecutor Salahuddin Howlader told The Daily Star.
He said that after police informed the court that the complainant was living in Buraydah, the capital of Al-Qassim province of Saudi Arabia, the court order to produce the complainant for testimony was sent to the foreign ministry three times in 2019 and 2020.
"If the complainant's statements cannot be recorded, the judgment in the case may contain some incompleteness; even the accused may be acquitted in the case," Salahuddin said.
He said the police is the only agency responsible for producing witnesses before the court.
Emdadul Haque, officer-in-charge of Ramganj Police Station in Lakshmipur, told The Daily Star that he assigned ASI Shakhawat Hossain to serve the latest summons issued against complainant Masud.
ASI Shakhawat on August 22 sent a report to the court, saying the respected citizens of the area concerned did not know the complainant. He also requested the court to send the proper name and address of the complainant.
Contacted, Shakhawat told The Daily Star on September 19, "I have heard that the complainant's family lives in Dhaka. But, I'm not sure whether the complainant is in the country or abroad."
However, Masud Alam, ward member of Chandipur Union Parishad under Ramganj, told The Daily Star, "The complainant is now doing business in Dhaka after his return from Saudi Arabia."
Mohammad Shaheenoor Islam, a noted criminal lawyer in Dhaka, said, "There are instances of police not visiting the witness' address to serve a summons. Instead, they send reports to the court, saying the witnesses' addresses could not be found."
He added, "Sometimes police can't serve the summons due to changes in witness' addresses."
Over the killing of Oyasiqur, Shah Md Mashiur Rahman, an inspector of the Detective Branch, submitted a charge sheet to a Dhaka court on September 2, 2015, accusing five members of ABT.
The Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court-3 of Dhaka on July 20, 2016 framed charges against the five ABT members -- Zikrullah, Ariful Islam, Saiful Islam, Akram Hossain Hasib alias Boro Bhai and Junayed Ahmed alias Taher.
Of them, Zikrullah, Ariful and Saiful are behind bars, while the other two are on the run.
According to the prosecution, 24 witnesses out of 40 gave their depositions before the court.
The court set October 27, 2020 for delivering judgment in the case, but withheld its decision following a petition from the prosecution for adding section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Penal Code.
The court on November 4, 2020 reframed the charges against the accused.
After reframing of charges, some of the key witnesses have been recalled, but Masud never appeared, said the prosecution.
The last hearing of the case took place on September 20.
Legal experts said even if the complainant becomes "hostile", the prosecution can still cross-examine him or her. But there is no scope to change the complainant in criminal cases, they added.
Khurshid Alam Khan, a criminal law expert, said, "Even if the complainant becomes hostile in a case, the court can award appropriate punishment to the accused, considering statements of other witnesses or circumstantial evidence."