A long wait for closure
Justice continues to elude the family members of Ishtiaque Hossain Jonny, a garment-waste trader from Mirpur, whose custodial torture and death in 2014 sparked outrage and led to the country's sole case filed under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013.
While the trial proceedings at a lower court concluded three years ago, the final verdict remains elusive. The lower court issued its judgment on September 9, 2020, sentencing 5 people, including 3 police officials, to different jail terms.
But the proceedings of appeals filed by the convicts, challenging the trial court's decision, are still to commence in the High Court Division of the Supreme Court.
The uncertainty comes as the convicts have failed to prepare the essential paper book for the case.
Additionally, the prospect of further legal battles looms large, with the possibility of appeals before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against the High Court judgment and the potential pursuit of a review of the apex court's verdict.
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT
A group of 25 to 26 police officers -- including then sub-inspector of Pallabi Police Station Zahidur Rahman -- raided a house during a wedding ceremony in Pallabi's Irani camp area and picked up Ishtiaque Hossain Jonny, who was then 28 years old, and his brother Imtiaz Hossain Rocky on February 8, 2014.
Police informers Sumon and Russell called the police after Jonny slapped Sumon for stalking and harassing women at the programme. Police then tortured the brothers at the station, according to the case statement.
This is the country's sole case filed under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013.
Ishtiaque Hossain Jonny, a garment waste trader from Mirpur, allegedly died after being tortured by cops at the Pallabi Police Station in February, 2014
On September 9, 2020, a Dhaka court sentenced former SI Zahidur and ex-assistant sub-inspectors (ASI) Qamruzzaman Mintu and Rashedul Islam of Pallabi Police Station to life imprisonment and sentenced police informers Sumon and Russell to seven years in jail.
After Jonny fell sick the next day, he was admitted to a local clinic. Later, he was transferred to Suhrawardy Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.
On August 8, 2014, Rocky filed the case with the Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court of Dhaka in connection with the death of his brother.
On September 9, 2020, a Dhaka court sentenced former SI Zahidur and former assistant sub-inspectors (ASI) Qamruzzaman Mintu and Rashedul Islam of Pallabi Police Station to life imprisonment and sentenced police informers Sumon and Russell to seven years in jail.
The trial court also asked each of the officers to pay Tk 2 lakh compensation to the complainant, Rocky, through Bangladesh Bank and fined Zahidur and Rashedul Tk 1 lakh each. Sumon and Russell were fined Tk 20,000 each.
This was the first verdict under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013.
Convicted Mintu has been on the run, and Russell, who had been absconding during the delivery of the trial court's judgment, surrendered to the lower court later.
Zahidur, Rashedul, Sumon and Russell filed separate appeals with the High Court challenging the trial court verdict.
Russell secured bail from the HC on November 22 last year and Zahidur, Rashedul and Sumon are now in jail in connection with the case, complainant Imtiaz Hossain Rocky told The Daily Star on September 6.
He said he is yet to receive any compensation from the convicts as the appeals of the case have not been disposed of by the High Court.
On May 10 this year, the High Court refused to grant bail to Zahidur, Rashedul and Sumon in the case and also ordered the convicted accused to deposit the fines to the treasury of the state within one month.
The bench of Justice SM Kuddus Zaman and Justice Shahed Nuruddin also asked Rashedul to prepare the paper book of the case in two months, SM Rezaul Karim, principal lawyer for Rocky, told The Daily Star.
A paper book that contains all details of a case, trial proceedings, statements, evidence, orders, verdict and other relevant documents is necessary for the HC to hear and dispose of an appeal, he said, adding that Rashedul is yet to prepare the paper book.
"This [Jonny murder] is the sole case filed under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013, as victims don't dare to lodge cases against the law enforcers for torture and death in custody," said Advocate Rezaul Karim.
Rashedul's lawyer Md Abdur Razzak Razu told this correspondent on September 6 that the paper book of the case will be prepared soon on behalf of his client.
He said all convicted accused have deposited the compensation and fines to Bangladesh Bank while filing their appeals in accordance with the relevant provisions of the law.
The HC may start hearing of the appeals after it will reopen on October 8, he added.