Two ex-Rab officials, allegedly involved in the Narayanganj seven-murder, were placed on a five-day remand yesterday, 10 hours after their arrest.
Lt Colonel Tareque Sayeed Mohammad and Major Arif Hossain were arrested under section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure at Dhaka cantonment around 4:15am.
In the early hours today, another former Rab man, Lt Commander SM Masud Rana, was arrested in the capital.
Superintendent of Police in Narayanganj Khandaker Mahid Uddin said a team of Narayanganj police picked up Rana from Dhaka cantonment area around 1:30am.
Earlier on May 11, the High Court ordered the police to arrest the three ex-Rab officials as suspects.
Around 2:00pm yesterday, police produced Lt Col Tareque and Major Arif before the Court of Senior Judicial Magistrate Chadni Rupam in Narayanganj amid tight security and sought a 10-day remand for each.
On May 6, the three officials were forced into retirement over the allegation of involvement in the killings of seven people, including panel mayor Nazrul Islam and lawyer Chandan Sarker.
Their names cropped up when Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam alleged that some officials of Rab-11 had killed Nazrul in exchange for Tk 6 crore from councillor Nur Hossain and his accomplices.
Tareque, who was the commanding officer of Rab-11, denies the allegation. During yesterday's court proceedings, he claimed the “Tk 6-crore story” is cooked up by the media.
He is son-in-law of Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.
None of the three has been made accused in the murder case filed by Nazrul's wife.
Although the arrest of the two brought some relief to the victims' families, a sense of insecurity prevails among the locals due to law enforcers' failure to capture any of the six accused in the case.
Meanwhile, 198 people, mostly neighbours and relatives of the victims, gave depositions at a public hearing arranged by a government probe committee for the third day.
More than 300 people showed up at the hearing, held at Siddhirganj Power Station in Narayanganj.
On April 27, Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam, his four aides and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker and his driver were kidnapped near Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah around the same.
Six bodies, including that of Nazrul and Chandan, were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river on April 30, and another was found the following day. The other victims are Swapan, Tajul Islam, Liton, Jahangir and Ibrahim.
Expressing satisfaction over the arrest of the two former Rab men, Nazrul's father-in-law, also known as Shahid Chairman, demanded immediate arrest of Nur, Rana and the other accused.
He also sought arrest of Syed Nurul Islam and Abdul Matin, the former superintendent of Narayanganj police and officer-in-charge of Siddhirganj Police Station, saying that they were very close to Nur Hossain and Nur could be arrested once they are arrested.
As Tareque and Arif, wearing bullet-proof jackets and helmets, were being taken to the courtroom, locals hurled torrents of abuse.
The detainees were not in handcuffs then. After around 45 minutes of proceedings, police had to handcuff the two following lawyers' agitation.
No journalists were allowed to enter the courtroom during the proceedings. Reporters of The Daily Star, however, spoke to a number of lawyers who were present there.
Moving the remand petition, Additional Public Prosecutor KM Fazlur Rahman of Narayanganj said the statements of the victims' families and other evidence “primarily prove” involvement of Tareque and Arif in the crimes.
"They should be taken on remand for further information on others involved in the abductions and killings," Fazlur told the court.
During the proceedings, some senior lawyers, including the president and secretary of Narayanganj Bar Association, also placed submissions and prayed to the court for remand of the two.
One lawyer argued the duo should be placed on remand to know the whereabouts of Nur Hossain, the prime accused in the killing case.
"The officials should be taken on remand to get a clear picture of the abduction and murder," he told the court.
Another lawyer said the Rab officials worked on their own and stigmatised the Rab and army.
The Rab men did not ask for any lawyers as Tareque spoke for them at the court. He claimed the “killing in exchange for Tk 6 crore” is a story manufactured by the media.
"I also want the mystery to be revealed and I am ready to go on remand for the cause," Fazlur quoted Tareque as saying.
The ex-Rab man denied his involvement in the crime, while Arif Hossain said nothing.
Law enforcers struggled to tackle the public ire when the arrestees were being taken to police vans.
Meanwhile, lawyers filed a petition seeking arrest of the two Rab officials in the case filed by a relative of Chandan in connection with the killing. The court will hear it after the remand ends, said the additional public prosecutor.
Law enforcers' move to arrest the two under section 54, instead of in the killing case, drew flak from some lawyers. They alleged the government was not willing to bring the two to book.
Terming the five-day remand “lenient”, they brought out a procession on the court premises soon after the delivery of the order.
Fazlur Rahman, however, said they will file a petition for the two to be shown arrested in the killing case if the investigator finds proof of their involvement.
Several hundred people gathered at the Siddhirganj Power Station in Narayanganj early in the morning to give their depositions on the abductions and killings of the seven.
Beginning around 11:00am, the public hearing witnessed the highest gathering so far, apparently thanks to the shifting of the venue from Narayanganj Circuit House to Siddhirganj Power Station, adjacent to the place where most the of the victims' families live.
The people, who gave depositions before the committee, spoke of Nur Hossain's criminal activities and his close relationship with the law enforcing agencies.
After his deposition, Shahidul Islam, a cloth trader of Bandar area, said he had seen Rab members forcefully taking some people to their vehicles around 1:30pm on April 27, when he along with his daughter was returning home through Dhaka-Narayanganj link road.
“I thought Rab men were searching people setting up check post,” he said adding that later he learnt from the media about the abduction of seven.
Meanwhile, Mostafizur Rahman, a member of the probe committee, said they would interrogate the Rab men, if they find it necessary.
Only seven people gave depositions on May 12 and 57 on May 15, as people reportedly said they were afraid to give depositions at the Circuit House, some eight kilometres away from Siddhirganj, as Nur Hossain and his associates were not arrested yet.
The committee will hold another round of hearing for members of the civil society and the media at Narayanganj Circuit House at 3:00pm today.