A road safety campaigner was placed on a day's remand for interrogation hours after he was arrested early yesterday in a case over extortion, a charge his wife and fellow campaigners termed “false”.
Police arrested Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a platform working for passengers' rights, from his Sanarpar house in Narayanganj around 3:00am, two days after the extortion case was filed with Mirpur Police Station.
In the case statement, complainant Md Dulal alleged that Mozammel, claiming to be a transport leader, demanded Tk 2 lakh from him, and he gave Mozammel Tk 10,000 in front of Sony Cinema Hall in Mirpur on September 3.
However, there are discrepancies between the details about the complainant mentioned in case statement and what our correspondent has found.
The complainant's address was found to be wrong. He also claimed to be secretary of Mirpur Road Workers' Committee. But transport workers in the Sony Cinema Hall area could neither identify anyone named Dulal nor any organisation named Mirpur Road Workers' Committee.
Meanwhile, Mozammel's family members and several leaders of his organisation said he was implicated in the “false case” to gag his voice as he has been vocal against anarchy in the transport sector.
They said the Samity often faces wrath of transport owners, workers and even the government, as it speaks against irregularities in the sector and regularly comes up with statistics on road accidents.
In a statement, the Samity said the government wants to muzzle passengers through the arrest and remand of Mozammel in a “false” case only days before the placing of proposed Road Transport Act 2018 in parliament.
It also alleged that there has been an attempt to enact a law to serve the interest of transport owners, workers and the government, ignoring people's interest.
DISCREPANCIES IN CASE STATEMENT
According to the case statement, 48-year-old Md Dulal, son of Nawab Ali, lives in House No 9 on Road 18 at Gudaraghat under Shah Ali Police Station in Mirpur.
This correspondent went to that address yesterday but didn't find any house with holding number 9. However, locals showed a house without any holding number, located next to the house with holding number 8.
A local influential man, Dulal Talukder, son of former ward commissioner Malguni Talukder, owns the tin-roofed house, which has been rented out. Six tenants now live there and none of them goes by the name Dulal.
Jabbar Ahmed, caretaker of the tin-roofed house, said though it doesn't have any holding number, everybody in the area knows it as House No 9 as it is located next to the house with holding number 8.
Contacted, Dulal Talukder said he didn't file any case against anyone.
Replying to a query, he said he is yet to get a holding number for the house.
“I haven't filed any case, and as far as I know, nobody named Dulal lives there,” he told this correspondent over the phone.
From noon till last night, this correspondent made numerous calls to the cell phone number mentioned as the complainant's contact number in the case statement. The phone rang but no one picked it up.
In the statement, the complainant alleged that Mozammel had been demanding money for the last 10-15 days. “He [Mozammel] threatened to have published misleading reports against me and our organisation if we failed to pay him Tk 2 lakh a month.”
On September 3, Mozammel chanced upon Dulal in front of Sony Cinema Hall in Mirpur and demanded money from him. Dulal then gave Mozammel Tk 10,000, according to the statement.
“The accused then asked me to give him the remaining amount there around 5:00pm on Wednesday [September 5],” alleged the plaintiff.
Asked whether police registered the case upon verification, Dadan Fakir, officer-in-charge of Mirpur Police Station, said they carried out a primary investigation, and three witnesses gave statements saying the incident took place.
The OC, however, said further probe would make it clear whether there is any other motive behind the filing of the case.
Asked whether the plaintiff's address was verified or not, Bazlur Rahman, investigation officer of the case, declined to comment.
He also didn't reply to the question why Mozammel was picked up from his house at an ungodly hour.
A Dhaka court placed Mozammel on a day's remand after the IO produced him before it with a seven-day remand prayer.
Jyotirmoy Barua, counsel for Mozammel, moved a bail petition along with a prayer for cancelling the remand petition.
He said that according to the first information report, the accused had sought money 10 to 15 days ago, but the accuser didn't immediately file any general dairy nor went to police.
“This is a totally false and fabricated case.”
Mozammel was implicated in the case for his role against anarchy in the transport sector, Jyotirmoy mentioned.
Metropolitan Magistrate Md Mazharul Hoque rejected his bail prayer and placed him on a day's remand.
Mozammel's wife Riju Akhter Chowdhury said her husband has been working for upholding passengers' rights for the last 12 years.
“He worked for the interest of the passengers, not for his personal gains. He was implicated in the case as part of a conspiracy so that anarchy in the transport sector continues,” she told reporters on the court premises.
SAMITY 'UNDER PRESSURE'
Established in 2006, Jatri Kalyan Samity obtained registration from the Department of Social Welfare in July 2014 as a social welfare organisation, said its leaders.
The organisation is run by an 11-member executive committee. Its main source of income is monthly financial contribution of its members and its monthly magazine that carries advertisements, they said.
On several occasions, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader criticised the organisation. Even several lawmakers castigated the Samity's reports on road accidents, terming those “false and motivated”. They even raised questions about Mozammel's political affiliation.
At the end of June, the road transport and bridges ministry rejected a Samity report which said the numbers of both road accidents and deaths saw a sharp rise during the Eid-ul-Fitr rush this year.
The ministry also said the Samity is not a registered organisation and that it dished out “confusing information” on several occasions.
Talking to this newspaper, Jatri Kalyan Samity Executive Member Shamsuddin Chowdhury said Mozammel has been vocal against anarchy in the transport sector.
“This arrest was made to silence his voice. When police raided his house, they said they came on the instructions of high-ups ... they are now cooking up charges,” he claimed.
Mohiuddin Ahmed, organising secretary of the organisation, said it is regrettable that police arrested Mozammel at an ungodly hour and sought his remand.
“The case has been filed to harass him,” he added.