Since the event of the so called “one-eleven”, the day when the army intervened to give the troubled democracy in Bangladesh a break from rivalry of the two leading parties, there has never been so many political elites in prison than the numbers held today.
The prisoner’s held in prison range from members and MP’s of the political elite ranging from the current opposition BNP and Jamaat e Islami leaders to members of Intelligence Agency (NSI).
Currently 10 (ten) of these “VIP’s” are now held in prison by the Awami League Administration. Few of them had already been there by the Army Administration.
The allegations against these elites range from acts against humanity of 1971 ( most Jamaat-e-Islami and a BNP member is part of this allegation), to that of smuggling arms through Chittagong (the ex-NSI members).
Amongst these members are the BNP leader Abdus Salam Pintu who is said to have spent 6 (six) Eid’s in prison. The ex-Deputy Minister Abdus Salam Pintu has been held in prison in connection with the bomb blast at Narayanganj Awami League (AL) office in 2001. The bomb blast at the AL office at Chashara on June 16, 2001 left 22 party leaders and workers killed. Abdus Salam Pintu was shown arrested by the Administration on November 26, 2009, in connection with this bombing. His party says that this is a politically motivated unfounded allegation.
BNP lawmaker Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, an ex-Member of Parliament (MP) for the current opposition party, BNP has been held in relation to the Pilkhana incident in which over 40 army officers were killed by the then BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) in a mutiny. He is said to have spent 8 (eight) Eid’s in prison. Again, his party says that this is a politically motivated unfounded allegation.
Ghulam Azam is also spending Eid in prison. He is said to have committed war crimes whilst he was the ameer (chief) of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Jamaat-e-Islami (in 1971) and during the Liberation war of Bangladesh. Currently he is being tried by “The International Crimes Tribunal” set up by the Awami League Administration. Recent request for a 30 day bail for this former Jamaat chief to observe Ramadan with his family was rejected. Another previous application for bail on medical grounds (due to his old age) was also rejected by the Tribunal. A very recent application for bail was made in order to perform the I’tikaf (an Islamic practice of being on retreat in a mosque for last 10 days during Ramadan for the purposes of praying and keeping oneself away from worldly matters). This was also rejected.
BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury is also spending Eid in prison. The charges against him are in connection with genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War of 1971. According to the charges, legislator Mr Chowdhury was involved in the killings of more than 200 people, including the much-talked-about killing of Nutan Chandra Singh, founder of the herbal medicine brand Kundeshwari Oushadhalaye.
On December 16, 2010, law enforcers arrested Mr Chowdhury in relation to a separate allegation and on December 19 he was accused of war crimes during 1971. He was produced before the tribunal on December 30, 2010.
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, born on March 13, 1949, at Gahira of Rawzan upazila in Chittagong, son of Fazlul Quader Chowdhury (president of Pakistan Convention Muslim League at that time) was only 22 years of age when all these crimes are said to have been committed by him.
According to the charges, the then 22 year old was directly involved in abduction, confinement and torturing of unarmed civilians. The allegations are that he controlled a torture centre named “Goods Hill” where many people were taken for persecution. He is said to have committed all these offences in Chittagong between April 4 and September 2, 1971. The charges also state that the then 22-year old led teams of Pakistani occupation army and Razakars (collaborators). The 23 charges against Salauddin cover crimes against humanity; genocide; attempt, abetment or conspiracy to commit such crimes; complicity in or failure to prevent commissioning of such crimes, according to different subsections of Section-3(2) of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973.
It is unlikely that Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, the most “outspoken” MP in Bangladesh well-known for his “ruthless tongue”, would be able to celebrate Eid outside of prison because if convicted he could get the death penalty.
Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Nayeb-e-Ameer Delawar Hossain Sayedee are another three to spend the Eid holidays in prison. Along with charges based on war crimes, police included the names of these three Jamaat-e-Islami leaders into the charge sheet of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) activist Faruk Hossain killing case. The charges are that based on Nizami’s political speech to his party members, during a meeting, Shibir cadres killed Faruk.
Bangladesh Chhatra League is the student wing of the Awami League (the current Administration). The total accused for Faruk’s murder case is now 111 all of whom belong to the Opposition alliance (political party). Earlier, the numbers of accused were 35 but later 76 more leaders and activists of Jamaat and Shibir were included after the investigation, including the top three leaders currently being tried for war crimes mentioned above. Being the leaders of the political party (Jamaat e Islami is the head of Islami Chatra Shibir who were alleged to have been involved with the killing) who killed Faruk Hossain, a final-year student of Rajshahi University and activist of Bangladesh Chhatra League, killed by Islami Chhatra Shibir men at the university campus on February 9, the charges are also added to their long list of charges.
Amongst others are former state minister Lutfozzaman Babar, former NSI director general Brig Gen (retd) Abdur Rahim, former DGFI director Brig Gen (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, NSI director Wing Commander (retd) Shahabuddin, ex-NSI deputy director Maj (retd) Liakat Hossain, and ex-NSI field officer Akbar Hossain Khan. The charges against them relate to the 10 truckloads of arms haul cases found in Chittagong many years ago. Allegation against the former state minister Babar and some top intelligence officials including Rezzakul is on the basis that they have links to the arms smuggling.