163rd HL Newsletter Oct.-Nov.,2009

 

Hotline Newsletter

163rd issue                                                                                     Oct. – Nov., 2009

Editorial

Who forgets what?

  On Nov. 26 the former Prime Minister Kheleda Zia, during her triumphal parade through the hundreds of arches in Bogra on the occasion of her eldest son Tarique’s 45th birthday, announced that he would be returning soon from abroad to take on an active role in BNP politics. She didn’t say anything about the serious health condition of her son for which the caretaker government allowed him to leave the country for two years for treatment. She is expecting that all the cases against him will be dismissed. Though “hope springs eternal in the human breast,” especially that of a mother, Khaleda seems to have a bad memory, as indeed she should have a bad memory of the overwhelming evidence against her two sons. The present government and the media also seem to share her bad memory, because there has been so little news about Tarique Ranman in the past two years.

 The huge deposits in Malaysia seems to have been completely forgotten about since March 2007, when word came that the Malaysian government had frozen Tarique’s bank account because he couldn’t explain the source of the money. One source claimed that he had $230,000,000 on deposit, while another source put it at $300,000,000. The Malaysian government expressed its willingness to cooperate in getting back the money. But the government is still silent about it whether they are accepting the offer of the Malaysian government or not. The press media also stopped all enquiries and investigations into the  corruption and mal-practices of Tarique and Koko.

 Has Khaleda forgotten about her son’s arrest on March 1, 2007 from his cantonment home on a charge of extorting Tk. 1,000,000 from the El-Amin Construction Co.? At that time he admitted having bank accounts in five countries. Have all these been checked out thoroughly and the possibility of reclaiming the money examined? Did the present government take any initiative to follow-up this issue? It was the peoples’ property that had been robbed and it is government’s moral obligation to recover it.

 Surely Khaleda could not have forgotten about the fake Zia Orphanage Trust case, in which she and Tarique were implicated with five others for embezzling Tk. 2.10 crore for personal gain.

 And what about the charges on Jun 9, 2008 that Tarique received Tk. 1 crore in cash as his share of a Tk. 21 crore bribe paid by the Bashundhara Group Chairman Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, alias Shah Alam to ensure that his son Sanvir would not be charged with the murder of Humayun Kabir Sabbir, a director of Basundhara Group? Should that also be conveniently dropped and forgotten when Tarique returns to Bangladesh in pomp and glory? Will the nation forgive and forget what had happened during the BNP-Jamaat period? Everyone knows what is going on in BNP now. Will Tarique be able to patch up all groups or will all those groups accept him after knowing his continue corruption and money laundering?

 It is at least heartening to see that the youngest son of Khaleda Zia, Koko, has finally been charged by the Anti-Corruption Commission with money laundering of bribes in five Singapore banks, taken in return for contracts awarded to two big companies. Finance Minister Muhith was said to be “upbeat” in answering a question in Parliament on March 2, 2009 about the possibility of getting back all the illegal money deposited by Koko outside the country. He mentioned that a case was filed with a District of Columbia court in the USA and is now under trial. The US government has confiscated Tk. 11 crore of the $3,000,000 sent to the USA for redistribution to twenty other countries. Unfortunately for Koko, the country to which illegal funds are first has priority of legal jurisdiction over them, even when they are sent to other countries for “safekeeping.” The idea behind splitting up illicit funds is that the less deposited in any one bank the more likely it is that no action will be taken to recover the money. But action can be taken all at once against all the deposits by the country of first deposit. Both the USA and UK have expressed their willingness to help Bangladesh get its money back free of cost. The United Nations has also offered to help because of its Convention against Corruption.

 Koko, like Tarique was arrested but on July 17, 2007 was released on a two-month parole to go to Bangkok for medical treatment. He has still to return to “face the music.”

 As if these were not enough headaches for the two sons and their mother, there are outstanding charges against both sons for amassing wealth and having properties that are far out of proportion to their known sources of income. Furthermore, these amounts have not been declared on their income tax forms.

 We hope that the press media especially will renew its interest and curiosity in the two brothers and keep up the pressure for government to meet the challenges and demands that these two “protected” people have burdened them with. Why is Khaleda so enthusiastic for her son Tarique’s return? What great contribution will he or she make to the nation and the people? ###

Officials assaulted for land denial

Awami League MP, Md Anwar Hossain of Pirojpur-3 constituency, allegedly assaulted two land officers of Mathbaria municipal area, Mathbaria Upazila, on Sept. 30 at his home for turning down his plea to lease a government khas land. They lodged complaints with the upazila executive officer, who informed the DC.

 The MP told the Daily Star that he had called the two officers to his house to rebuke them for demanding bribes to give a land lease for a mosque. He claimed that agitated activists in the next room might have misbehaved with them.  DS 02.10.09

Land grabbers show their power

 A group of local people grabbed 23 decimals of land in Shahi Para, Nilphamari the night of Sept. 27 to construct a commercial building. The land was meant for a district press club building.  The next day the police tore down a fence erected by the grabbers and freed the land. In retaliation they attacked the club, assaulted its secretary and an AC of land and kept him confined. They began to build a mosque on the land . Police tried to rescue it but were driven off. The district administration has not yet taken steps to rescue the land. DS 02.10.09

Administration in on Aug. 21 attacks?

 The 41-page charge sheet for the Aug. 21 grenade attack that killed 23 people hints at involvement of the BNP-Jamaat alliance. But no investigation of this was ever carried out. The sheet suggests that Salam Pintu, a former deputy minister, had assured Huji leaders of “administrative support” three days before the attack. Experts say that this finding surely mearit further probing, which might reveal the masterminds behind the attack. After the grand alliance came into power the prosecution called for further investigation to expose the sources and suppliers of the grenades. CID’s Abdul Kahar was assigned the job, and three CID officials are facing charges for misleading the probe. DS 03.10.09

 Detained former state minister for home, Lutfozzaman Babar, gave vital information about the suppliers of the Arges grenades used in the attack. This was revealed on Nov. 9 when a court granted a further 3-day remand to interrogate him. On Nov. 12 it was reported that he told interrogators that the Arges grenades used in all grenade attacks in Bangladesh were part of the missing truckload of arms and ammunition seized in Chittagong in 2004.

 He also admitted that he put pressure on law enforcers not to arrest Mufti Abdul Hannan, the Harkatul Jihad al Islami leader and the main accused in the Aug. 21 grenade attack.

Home of disabled family seized

A land grabber forced a family of four physically and mentally challenged to leave their ancestral homestead before full payment for their land. Yunus Ali (35) lived with his wife and three children, only one of whom was not a protibondhi, on a six-decimal land in Bordingpara Village under Debiganj Upazila, Panchagarh Dt.  His neighbour Tajul Islam persuaded him to sell 3 decimals of his land for Tk 70,000 per decimal but only paid Tk 50,000 and then got the plot registered. He stalled on paying the rest. When Yunus’ elder brother asked him to pay up because of the wedding of their eldest girl Tajul said he had paid in full and asked him to vacate the land. Tajul and cronies forced him off the land. The local Disability Development Centre helped Yunus to file a complaint to the district superintendent of police. The OC of the local police station was ordered to investigate and take legal action. DS 05.10.09

Hospital run by touts

 At the emergency gate of the Pongu (disable) Hospital incoming patients are met by many eager touts, offering to help them. They try to persuade the patient or his/her relatives that they would be better off to go to a private clinic nearby, which, of course, they are associated with. Many patients do not even enter the hospital but go off with the tout straight from the gate. One guardian told a reporter that the tout had assured him of the quick recovery of his son and at a cheaper cost. He also told the man that he would not get proper treatment at the Pongu Hospital. The tout told the reporter he is paid Tk 1,000-5,000 for each patient he brings to the clinic. Patients are said to be routinely duped by dozens of illegal brokers daily. Even those who use the services of the hospital, usually have to go through a broker, who takes much higher payments than normal for services such as X-ray and plastering.

 The Director General Prof. Dr. KH Abdul Awal Rizvi said they were working to eliminate the brokers but there was a severe shortage of workforce, with only 104 doctors against a requirement of 200 in the 500-bed hospital. DS 07.10.09

Rape-murder of schoolgirl protested

 Eti Moni, a girl of Class X of Jaldhaka Girls HS in Jaldhaka Upazila Town, Nilphamari Dt. was raped and killed at her home on Sept. 30 while the family members were out. Her father filed a case against Mahmudur Rahman (25) of Dundibari Village. A post-mortem was done the next day. On Oct. 6 a huge crowd of several thousand persons took to the streets to protest an alleged attempt by an influential quarter to save the rapist and killer. The crowd chanted slogans demanding a just post-mortem examination, report and arrest of the killer within 24 hours or they would have a tougher program.

Trees plundered in Barisal

On Oct. 3 a day labourer was arrested for collecting leaves and branches of cut-down trees near the hostel of the Barisal Medical College. The one responsible for cutting down 63 trees and looting them is said to be a Sramik League leader, Azizur Rahman Tuhin, a CBA leader of the Water Development Board. He took advantage of the long Eid vacation, when security was less. He claimed the trees were planted by his father before Govt. acquired the land for expanding the campus. Those on security duty during the vacation had notice served on them for negligence of duty for not protecting the trees. College authorities have opened a case in this connection.

MP defends 2 land-grabbing sons

 Two sons of AL-MP ABM Abul Kashem led about 200 men in grabbing 10 acres of land on Oct. 7 along the coast of Sitakunda Upazila. The land belonged to Pakija Enterprise and three other ship-breaking yards. Pakija Enterprise lodged a GD with the police and station and also filed a GD with the Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Chittagong. Its owner called the MP’s statement that his sons were not present on the spot a lie. As of Oct. 9 no case was filed with the police over the land grabbing, but two journalists brought a case of physical assault, damage of valuable property and threatening them with death. Police arrested two persons.

Petition against crossfire killings

Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and a number of other human rights NGOs are planning to petition the High Court to compel the Govt. to initiate proper investigation into incidents of extra-judicial killings in the name of “crossfire,” “encounter.” and “gunfight.” They say that some 1,070 incidents of extra-judicial killings have taken place so far since 2004. On June 20 the High Court had issued a rule to government to explain within four weeks why such encounters should not be declared illegal and why departmental and punitive actions should not be taken against those responsible for such killings. During the hearing govt. counsels told the HC that no extra-judicial killings had occurred during the present government’s rule. ASK replied that more than 100 persons have been killed in the time frame.  DS 08.10.09

Girl acid burnt by drug addict

 As of Oct. 10 Rodeya Parveen Mou of Class X of a Sherpur Bogra high school was in a hospital bed for acid burn for the past 23 days. A 22-year old drug addict, Selim Ahmed, whom Mou’s mother had raised since 1995, threw the acid on the girl. The mother, Kohinur Begum, had turned him out of the house because of his drug addiction for the sake of the other family members. The girl is now under treatment at the Burn and Plastic Surgery unit of DMCH. Selim has not yet been arrested.DS 10.10.09

Graft at Sonargaon Hotel

 For the past five years corruption allegations have been raised over the renovation work of the 5-star Pan Pacific Hotel in Dhaka but nothing was done. Rather, whistle blowers were removed from the management body of the hotel. Recently some board members brought corruption allegations of irregularities in the Tk 136 cr. project against Southeast Asia Technology Co. Ltd (SEATEC) of Thailand, a consultancy firm which drew Tk 7 cr. of 12 cr. for work that remains unfinished. Only 30% of the work was completed by December 2008. One was removed from the board Sept. 14. He was part of a 5-man probe committee formed in August to unearth the facts. A Seatech representative said they gave the designs but the contractor did not complete the job. DS 14.10.09

Law Commission tries again

The newly-constituted law commi-ssion has drawn up a two-year work plan to modernise the legal system and to update some old laws. The plan was sent to the ministry of law, justice and parliamentary affairs for getting government’s opinion. Sources said that in 13 years of their establishment 86 recommendations had been drafted but only four or five were acceptable to successive govern-ments. DS 10.10.09

Corruption probes hard hit by bank law

 During the two years of the caretaker government the Anti-Corruption Commission flourished on cases of illegally-amassed wealth by having full access to bank documents of persons. The legal interpretation of the laws now holds that the commission cannot ask for bank documents without a court order. This will make the fate of about 90 per cent of the cases uncertain, since bank documents are the most vital source of information and evidence. DS 12.10.09

Student vandalism in 3 colleges

 On Oct. 13, following arguments with transport workers over bus fare on Oct. 11, rioting students of Jagannath University vandalized a bus station and counters, set a bus on fire and trashed 20 vehicles after barricading several roads.

 The same day about 200 students of Titumir Govt. College set a bus ablaze and damaged seven others after brawling with company staff over their bus fares. They barricaded a main road in Mohakhali and held up traffic for more than an hour.

 Students of Mirpur College and Commerce College clashed on Oct. 13 over a previous dispute. At least 10 were injured and 50 vehicles were damaged.

42 MPs didn’t pay income tax

 Of the 335 lawmakers, 42 from both treasury and opposition benches, including three state ministers, did not pay any income tax. They claimed not to have any taxable income. Meraj Uddin Mollah, MP from Rajshahi-3 constituency, whose annual income before the election, was about Tk 1 lakh, bought a luxury minivan for Tk 22 lakh on Sept. 29 and paid about Tk 60,000 the next day. DS 18.10.05

 It was revealed on Oct. 24 that 17 MPs, including a minister, a state minister and whip illegally did not submit income tax returns when applying for candidacy in the 2008 election.

Drop flawed leases in CHT

 The parliamentary standing committee on the Hill Tracts on Oct. 18 demanded that authorities scrap the lease of about 27,000 acres of land for violation of contracts given to 545 organisations and individuals. The committee also called for accountability and transparency among the NGOs working in the CHT and asked for a listing.

Murder over dowry

 Smrity Begum, a housewife whose dowry-greedy husband  Nazmul Mia demanded a motor-bike from her family several years after their marriage died on  Oct. 15 in Dimna Upazila Health Complex, Nilphamari. Just before her death she told her elder brother and other relatives that her husband had forced her to swallow a pill that he said would make her healthy. But her condition deteriorated fast and he took her to the hospital. The OC of the police station urged her brother to make an unnatural death or suicide case, but later recorded a murder case under pressure from local people. The UNO of the upazila prepared an inquest report. DS 19.10.09

Two rapes, one settled illegally

 A 13-year old girl was allegedly raped by shopkeeper Hanif Mollah in Kalapara when she came to buy goods on Oct. 25. Police arrested him but let him go when Union Council member Anwar Hossain arranged a village arbitration, fining the man Tk 5,000 and whipping him 50 times. The victim’s family said they were forced to accept the decision and Anwar also kept the money (for sundry expenses, such as police, he claimed).The victim’s mother filed a case, accusing 7 persons, including Anwar.

 In Golachipa, Patuakhali Dt. also a 12-year old girl was gang-raped on Oct. 20 when she was going to her uncle’s house. Three youths took her to a rice mill and raped her. Locals heard her cry and caught Liton (27), who was arrested by the police. The girl was taken to a hospital in a bad condition.

ACC paid Tk 10 crore in lawyer fees

The Anti-Corruption Communion during the caretaker government paid Tk 10 cr in excess to lawyers as “fees,” according to a report of the office of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). CAG also questioned Tk 6 cr payments to various intelligence agencies as “incentives” for promoting the ACC anti-graft drive. A standing committee of Parliament recommended recovery of the Tk 16 cr from officers of the last caretaker government.

AL-MP bombed

About 9 p.m. on Oct. 21 a remote-control bomb was thrown under the car of AL-MP Fazle Noor Taposi, a prosecution lawyer in the murder case of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as he was getting into his car to leave Motijhil. The bomb rolled out and injured 13 nearby people, blew out the windscreen of Taposi’s car but did not injure him. He blamed the bombing on those who are family members, relatives or associates of the murder case victims. The Detective Branch in its probe identified seven attackers and 53 accomplices. On Nov. 9 six army officers detained for interroga-tion names six of their former superiors as masterminds of the attack; they are already removed from service.

“Murder” writer tortured by RAB

FM Masum, a staff reporter for the daily New Age, who had written several reports on extra-judicial killings through “crossfire” by RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) and reports on torture of newsmen in Bangladesh,, was picked up by Rab-10 at his Jatrabari residence on Oct. 22. He was allegedly beaten and tortured (by rubbing salt into the wounds) in public by RAB but was released about 10:15pm. and taken to DMCH for treatment. He was picked up because he protested the rude behavior of RAB toward his landlord’s wife. The next day RAB regretted the incident and formed a probe committee to punish the personnel involved in such an unlawful act. DS 23-24, 10.099

 Masum tried to file a case on Oct. 22 but it was not accepted by the police. Flight Lt. Anisur Rahman, who is allegedly responsible for the torture, was removed from RAB.

Extortion from nurses

The Senior Staff Nurse of the National Institute of Traumatology, Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Shahjahan Hawlader, has been extorting money from nurses and threatening them with transfer unless they become members of the Diploma Nurses Association, which isn’t even registered. He and his partners forced 24,000 nurses across the country to join the DNA by paying Tk 200 entry fee and Tk. 50 per month More than 50 who refused to join the DNA were transferred and had to pay Tk 50,000-80,000 to get it cancelled. The extortionists claim the Directorate of Nursing Services as their chief election commissioner’s office. DS 25.10.09

Aug. 21 attack a Hawa Bhavan plot

 The grenade attack of Aug. 21, 2004 which killed 21 people was plotted at Hawa Bhavan (the alternative power centre of the BNP-led coalition under Khaleda Zia’s son, Tarique Rahman}. On Aug. 14, 2004 at least nine people attended a meeting that recommended that President Sheikh Hasina must die as “the archenemy of the country and of Islam.” One of the persons was “a top Hawa Bhavan bigwig.” DS 27.10.09

 The BNP sent a highly rhetorical rejoinder to the Star on Oct. 27, without answering any of the charges. Instead they blasted the Star for “this maliciously concocted libelous report.” The Star answered each paragraph in detail. They said that in the beginning because they were horrified over BNP attempts to divert the investigation and even blame the AL itself, they had diligently spent years in careful investigation. DS 01.11.09

Who is the most inhuman?

 A faction of BCL on Oct. 25 protested an attack on them Oct. 22 by another BCL faction. As a result of the protest, several hundred outdoor patients had to leave the Salimullah Medical College Hospital without treatment, while the emergency ward was closed for two hours and some patients moved out elsewhere.

Chittagong port up for grabs

 The caretaker government in 2007 introduced a reform plan to keep port workers from tying up the port. After the national election, the leaders of 10 organisations under the Workers Federation made an agreement with the shipping ministry and state minister of labour on Oct.26 to return complete control of appointments and worker bookings to the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA). The Port Users Forum, a group of 12 oganisa-tions, criticised the unilateral decision and urged the prime minister to intervene, fearing turmoil as before. They called for a voice in port management. Otherwise, “if we are forced to engage an unnecessary number of workers and staffers as in the past, we will have to stop work and leave the port,” they averred. DS 01.11.09

Parking space freed

As part of its drive to restore designated parking space illegally used for other purposes, RAJUK on Oct. 25 knocked down 150 shops in two basements at two shopping complexes at malls in Mirpur. The basements had been approved as parking spaces but were rented out for shops instead.

 The next day RAJUK demolished many more shops in six buildings of Mirpur. One building had to be spared because the owner had produced a High Court stay order. The magistrate-in-charge detained one man for creating obstacles to the drive.

 Despite the destruction of illegal structures to create parking space, within a week the businesses had returned to their original places.

Tongi RGM workers protest

 Several hundred garment workers came to the Nippon Garments Industries Ltd. at Ershadnagar, Tongi on Oct. 31 to find a notice on the gate that the plant was closed down for one month due to lack of orders. Arrear wages were not paid. They protested and clashed violently with the police, injuring 16. At least three persons were killed and 100 were injured. The Dhaka-Mymensingh highway was blocked for several hours.

 Three legal steps must precede a closure: give one month notice to workers, publish the notice in newspapers and inform the labour inspector. The factory claims to have discussed with the workers and police station before the closure.

Govt. to probe extra-law killings

 Law Minister Shafique Ahmed announced on Oct. 31 that Govt. will protect basic human rights and investigate all cases of extrajudicial-killings and try them. He said that Govt. had “taken many steps to implement these commitments in its nine months.” He said this at the inauguration of a pilot scheme to give law officers and legal practitioners human rights training.

Patron, outlaw held for arms

Taslima Khan Ankhi, the general secretary of a group of Women’s Awami League of Kushtia and a WAL activist were arrested as patrons of an underground armed group in connection with transporting arms and ammunition, including an AK-47 rifle. The AL suspended the leader, who is a high profile cadre of the People’s Army.

Principal\s suicide due to conspiracy

 Touhafa Begun, and honest and dedicated Principal of Saidpur Adorsha Girls’ School and College, committed suicide on Oct.30. Her husband filed a case with police Nov. 2, accusing three persons with causing her suicide. They are: Amzad Hossain Sarker, former chairman of the MC and former MP; his brother Rashidul Islam Sarker, President of Saidpur Jubo Dal; and Ismail Hossain, school office assistant. They are alleged to have misappropriated Tk 20 lakh from the institution, but the Principal could not get it back from them. Out of fear of social shame for false blame, she committed suicide but left notes explaining she was a victim of the three.

 Thousands of people marched in procession on Nov. 9 in Saidpur, Nilphmari demanding a fair investi-gation and trial of the culprits who instigated Touhafa’s suicide. They submitted a memo to the District Commissioner.

Shocking news re toxic paracetamol deaths

 The results of a Daily Star investigation published on Nov. 11 showed that in one of the worst-ever crimes in the history of the country over 2,000 children died of fatal kidney disease caused by toxic paracetamol syrup between 1980 and 1992, but  corruption had sabotaged the criminal cases brought against five companies. High Court stay orders kept the cases from coming to trial. One company was not prosecuted, two cases are still stuck in stays, another was acquitted, and the 5th case was reopened on Nov. 11.

 In December 1992 chemical analysis proved beyond all doubt that the paracetamol syrups of five companies contained toxic diethylene glycol. But the managers of three companies gave the High Court misleading [lying] information about the tests and in 1994 the HC gave a temporary stay order. At no time in the past 15 years did the Directorate of Drug Administration (DDA) correct the wrong information and argue the stay order to be vacated. The case papers of two companies whose stays were vacated two years ago by the HC were quickly “lost” by the DDA. They were found after a big hunt and the cases will be reopened Nov. 11. The case that was dropped had equal proof against it but one director was the father-in-law of a BNP minister and its secretary general, which seems to be the only reason he escaped prosecution.

 It was Dr. Hanif of the Shishu Hospital who said the cause of the deaths must be the substitution of cheaper, but toxic, dipropylene glycol for harmless propylene glycol. DDA failed to organise tests but Dr. Hanif verified his findings in the USA, which forced DDA to do testing by three scientists, the head a WHO consultant. They found that the syrups of five brands had 10-20% diethylene glycol. But the DDA director, now dead, issued a circular that the tests could not be done adequately in Bangladesh, though he knew that they had been done.

 Cases were filed but the defendants sought stays on the grounds that the DDA itself admitted that the tests in Bangladesh were inadequate. No action was taken for 15 years to get the cases re-started, in spite of the large number of children’s deaths and the suffering of so many families.                                   DS 11.11.09   

  On Nov.11 none of the three accused showed up in court.

Low bridge will block Turag

 A long, low bridge has been built across the Turag River connecting the Tongi-Ashulia bypass with a large housing project for 400 members (Pratyasha), not approved by Rajuk. The Local Government Program Department ignored the objection of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority that the bridge will obstruct river traffic and halt implementation of the circular waterway project. Further, the bridge is not in the Dhaka Master Plan. At highest water there would be only 4-foot clearance for boats. Some claim that encroachment on the river is even more important for obstruction.

BNP objects to rejoinder

 BNP sent a second long letter to The Daily Star objecting to their rejoinder published on Nov. 1. Again, the paper gave the letter in full on Nov. 12 and responded at length, point by point. [The BNP objected that judgment should have been left to the reader, so here is our judgment. We think the BNP was foolish to write again and try to cross swords with the editor of the DS. We feel that they have once again been demolished thoroughly and systematically.]

Tea vendor burned for toll

 A tea vendor, Md. Tofazzul, of Pallabi area was doused with petrol and set on fire together with his tea stall on Nov. 9 after he refused to pay a toll. Local criminal extortionists looted his cash box and stole his mobile phone as well. Tofazzul was admitted to the burn unit of DMCH with critical injuries.

Koko charge – money laundering

 BNP Chair Khaleda Zia’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko and Islmael Akbar Hossain Salmon, son of former BNP shipping minister, Akbar Hossain were charged on Nov. 12 with money laundering by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Bribes for getting lucrative contracts (Siemens, a Chinese company and others) were accepted and stashed in five Singapore bank accounts to the tune of $932,000. This money went unmentioned in Koko’s income tax returns. He left the country for medical treatment. Now his ad interim bail has been extended one more month.

 On Nov. 23 a petition was filed on his behalf with a Dhaka court to exempt Koko from personal appea-rance before the court. A Senior Special Judges’ Court set Jan. 14 for hearing the petition but also asked for a police report on the execution of an arrest warrant issued by the court on Nov. 15 against Salmon.

Catholic drops murder charge

 The court dropped murder charges on Nov. 12 against six accused after Sumoti Costa, 47, from St. Rita’s Church, Pabna, entered a plea to dismiss the case, saying she had forgiven the men. “Nothing will help me to get my son back. I wanted to forgive them all to help them to change their lives.”  Local extortio-nists had stabbed her son, Sujon, to death eight years ago in front of the church gate after he refused to pay a large sum of extortion money, Sumoti recalls. Sujon, the only son, was 22 when he died. Sujon was first attacked by a group of mastans at Tejgaon, Dhaka while he was a student of Notre Dame College and they severely injured his left arm. The case was handled by Hotline in Dhaka but the police could not trace out the criminals. His father Santosh had just returned from his job in the Middle East to visit his sick grand-mother. Santosh died six years after the killing of Sujon, and, she believes, because of grief over his son’s death. The trial was set to begin only recently, when Ms Costa made her plea. Only one of the six suspects was in jail when the charges were dropped. The others had either been freed on bail or had fled the area.

 Sumoti’s act set “a shining example of Christian forgiveness for people of all religions,” commented Father Patrick Gomes, the local parish priest. “Forgiveness is a divine virtue, and the Catholic Church places this virtue very high, since Jesus set the greatest example of forgiveness on the cross.” But the state failed in promoting justice and protecting her citizens. UCAN & Hotline

3 Pakistani held for Laskar link

 Three Pakistanis suspected to be linked to the Laskar-e-Taibe (LeT) were arrested by police Nov. 12 in Tongi and Uttara. A Dhaka court put them under two-day remand for quizzing about the LeT plans to attack the US and Indian embassies in Dhaka.

 Two more Laskar men were arrested in India Nov. 6, soon after they had crossed the Comilla border. They had sneaked into Bangladesh to lead a 15-member squad in an attempt to attach the US and Indian missions in Dhaka. They are believed to be members of the LeT suicide squad who were trying to collect explosives from Rohingya rebels in the CHT. DS 24.11.09

“Voluntary” gifts for the destitute

  The MP of Netrokona, Mostraque Ahmed Ruhi, has been collecting huge amounts of money for an unregistered Destitute Welfare Fund. Contractors give 1%, coal importers Tk 1,000 for each letter of credit, white clay dealers Tk 50 per ton and sub-registry offices Tk 30 per deed.  Two other men are holders of the joint account where the money is kept but have no authority over its operation. They have to sign cheques given by a cousin of Ruhi, who himself decides who will get help from the fund. He denied that any pressure is exerted and claimed that the Fund doesn’t have to be registered since it is not an NGO.

Questionable pardon

 The son of the deputy leader of parliament, Shahdab Akbar, was given a presidential pardon by Zillur Rahman, even though he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment and fined Tk 1.6 crore in four cases of the ACC and National Board of Revenue. The BNP Secretary claimed it was an abuse of justice, since the president had not followed legal procedures.A senior barrister feared that many others who had not surrendered to the court would try for a presidential pardon. DS 15.11.09

All riverbank leases cancelled

 On Nov. 15 Govt.cancelled all leases of riverbanks issued by the Inland Water Transport Authority on a daily basis, except for kitchen markets, landing stations and docks. Efforts to stop river pollution and preserve navigability have been frustrated. Leases used to be given to sand and brick traders, who filled in and grabbed riverbanks.The ongoing drive to remove illegal structures will continue.  Two days later the Daily Star had a large photo on the front page of large numbers of small, tin-roofed restaurent cubicles on high bamboo stilts for use by dating couples extending far out from the shore of the Turag River.

Police inaction on Rid officials

 The Rid Company which made toxic paracetemol syrup that killed at least 28 children has one director in jail and another out on bail. But three who are absconding had no action taken against their properties. On Nov. 15 the Dhaka Drug Court again ordered attachment of all their properties because they failed to show up in court. The OC of Bramanbaria P.S. was ordered to show up in person by Jan. 5 to explain his failure to submit action reports. DS 16.11.09

 A Brahmanbaria court again ordered the attachment of properties of the three absconding officials of Rid Phamaceutical Ltd. on Nov. 26 and set Jan. 20 for the next hearing.

SC issues rule re custody deaths

 Bangladesh’s Minister for Home Affairs Ms. Sahara Khatun said to the media on Nov. 17 that “no ‘crossfire’ killing has occurred since her party has assumed office” in January of this year. The minister made this statement on the same day that a Division Bench of the High Court Division, Supreme Court of Bangladesh passed a suo moto rule against the government and the Rapid Action Battalion asking them to explain within 48 hours why the shooting and deaths of two persons in custody in Madaripur by: shootout” should not be declared illegal. The Deputy Attorney General told the court that there was no Major Wahidduzaman on that RAB team. He appealed for more time and on Nov. 22 the HC on Nov. 22 asked the Govt. to report by Dec. 9 the details of the death by “shootout” of two E. Bengal Communist Party captives on Nov. 16.

Police use public vehicles

 Police have only 132 vehicles, mostly old and broken-down, 37 of which are reserved for officers-in-charge. They need about 500 so they collect 368 on daily requisition or regular requisitions. No compensation for use or damage payment is given to the owner, nor do oikuxe pay for the drivers’ or helpers’ food. Moreover, the owners have to pay bribes to get out of requisition when stopped. The “going rates” are said to be: Tk 2,500-4,000 for a microbus, Tk 1,500-2,000 for a taxi and Tk. 1,000 for a pick-up van.

Justice for Mujib

 Long after Sheikh Mujibur Rahmanb, the founder of the nation, was murdered by Army troops on Aug. 15, 1975, the Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of the High Court against 12 killers. It issued the verdict in the Bangabandhu murder case at 11 a.m. on Nov. 19. Twelve were sentenced to death. The five who are now behind bars can appeal or the president can grant mercy. Other-wise, they will be hanged. Of the others, six are absconding and one is dead. All political parties rejoiced and demanded quick execution. On Nov. 20 Sahara Khatun, the Home Minister pledged to take all possible measures to bring back the six convicted absconding killers of Sheikh Mujib.

Tarique exceeds Mujib

 When Sheikh Mujibur Rahman went to open the satellite downloading station at Betbaria, Chittagong Dt. a short time before his gruesome murder, about 500 welcome gates were erected along the way and the party was highly criticised for the waste of money just to heap praises on Mujib.

 In Bogra Dt. a 7-day celebration of Tarique Rahman’s 45th birthday, with huge expenditures for welcome gates to greet his mother in his absence, far exceeding those honoring Mujib. At least 500 were built in Bogra, about 50 in Sherpur, 40 in Bogra Town and 5 gates every 500 metres on the Dhaka-Bogra highway between Hatikumul and Matidhali. More than 3,000 leaders and workers of the BNP and its associates accompanied Khaleda Zia on the final day, Nov. 20.

 In one talk Khaleda said that her son would take part in politics on his return from abroad after completing treatment [how many years does he need?] She alleged that the caretaker government lodged false cases against him and sent him abroad

Fugitive convict tries for writ

 Bashundhara Group Chairman Ahmed Akbar Sobhan Shah Alam filed a writ petition with the High Court on Nov. 21 to challenge the caretaker government’s action of taking Tk 52 cr from his company, the Meghna Cement Mills Ltd. The Attorney General’s office said he is a fugitive from justice and therefore has no right or authority to file such an appeal. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in two cases on charges of money laundering and evasion of income taxes.

Defamation suit against Basundhara for Tk 200 cr

 Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and the chairman of Mediastar Ltd., Latifur Rahman filed a civil defamation suit on Nov. 21 against Basundhara Group, asking Tk. 200 cr in damages. They charged the Group with publishing highly libelous and insulting posters and advertisements in revenge for news they had published in their media. In response to legal notices issued against three Group officials and their chairman Shah Alam, who denied responsibility. The Group filed a concocted general diary against the two Rahmans and others for arson in Basundhara City, filed by a libel suit which was dismissed the same day by the magistrate.

Guarantors to produce accused

 A Dhaka court on Nov. 23 asked the two guarantors of the three absconding officials (two directors and the manager) of Adflame Pharmaceuticals Co. to produce them before the court by Jan. 12, 2010. A previous court summons had gone to their address on Elephant Rd., which had been sold out. A case had been filed in 1992 against the company for producing paracetamol containing toxic diethylene glyco.  A temporary stay of the High Court went on for 13 years until The Daily Star published news that the stay had been vacated and the drug court then took action. DS 24.11.09

Attack on tribal homes

  A local influential person and about 50 of his goons attacked, looted and badly damaged 17 tribal homes in Shialor Village, Haripur Upazila, Thakurgaon on Nov. 26. Five women were injured, one of them critically. The aim of the attackers was to drive the indigenous people out of their village through terrorism. The District Tribal Council demanded immediate arrest of the attackers and withdrawal of all the false cases against them. DS 27.11.09

Published by Rosaline Costa, Hotline (HRs) Bangladsh

Box-5, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh

Phone:+9352149, E-mail:costa_rosie@yahoo.com, Web: www.hotlinebd.org

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