By William Gomes
Dhaka (Sri Lanka Guardian)
Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), the Bangladesh’s Military Intelligence is behind the arrest of labor rights activist Moshrefa Mishu, a leftist political activist and President of the Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF), a labor rights organization of the readymade garment factories of the country.The Director General (DG) of DGFI directly reports to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Confined in Dhaka Medical Hospital (DHMC) by highly armed police officials Moshrefa Mishu exposed the horrific torture description the in several undercover interviews to Srilanka guardian.
Mishu said to Srilanka guardian that on 13 December 2010, at around 5pm in the afternoon two persons called Mishu on her cell phone. Both persons claimed that they were journalists. In two separate calls the callers said, “We need to interview you; please stay at home! We will come soon!
Mishu’s sister Zabunnesa Zebu said to Srilanka guardian that she suspects that the callers were from the DGFI, who wanted to be sure that Mishu stayed at home for a probable arrest.
Zebu said to Srilanka guardian that earlier, on 30 July 2010 from 12 midnight to 12:35am Mishu received four calls in her cell phone. The callers suppressed their telephone numbers that had been used to call Mishu.
For example, the first call appeared on Mishu’s cell phone screen as “private number”; the second caller’s call appeared as +01748888888, which is abnormal in Bangladesh as the numbers appear with its country code at the begging such as +8801XXXXXXXXX. The third and fourth call also appeared without any number on the cell phone screen said zebu
Zebu said the first caller threatened to kill her in crossfire, which an official method of extrajudicial killing of crime suspects by the law-enforcement agencies as well as the paramilitary and armed forces in the country where persons are arrested and killed in shootouts while in detention followed by an identically prepared story in all cases.
The second caller introduced him as an officer of the SB (Special Branch of police). Following Mishu’s questions he claimed that his name was Mizan. He said, “You are already in the crossfire list, you rather stop and run away. We have records of your every movement (steps), you are under our surveillance. Be ready for crossfire.”
The third and fourth callers called after short intervals and used similar language and threats to her life.
Zebu said Mishu was allegedly threatened by the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), an intelligence agency operated by the armed forces of Bangladesh mostly dominated the country’s army, over her cell phone. She was instructed not to raise voice on the issue of the wages of the workers of the Ready Made Garment (RMG) factories. The intelligence agency officials warned Mishu that if the workers further demand for the increase of their wages, she will face dire consequences. The caller used slang words on the cell phone.
Msihu said to Srilanka guardian on 14 December, early in the morning at around 1:15am a group of twelve plain-clothed armed people came to the house at 51/2 Kolabagan North Road under the jurisdiction of the Kalabagan police station in the city of Dhaka.
The team, which included three women and nine men, was heavily armed. The police entered into the house forcefully and raided the premises without a search warrant. They asked for Ms. Moshrefa Mishu. When the family members of Mishu asked about the identity of the team they claimed that they were officials of Detective Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
Zebu said DB officials started beating on the closed door of Mishu’s bedroom and tried to break the door. When the family members tried to resists the police officials shouted at them.
Zebu said Meanwhile, Mishu opened the door and the policewomen entered into her bedroom and ordered her to go with them.
Mishu said I asked DB officials whether they had an arrest warrant and for the allegation against me. The police said that they did not have arrest warrant, but they had been dictated by the “upper level of the government” to arrest me. They also warned that if I do not follow the instructions of the police and “peacefully accompany them, they will use their utmost force” to take me with them. At this point, when my sister Zebunneas Zebu attempted to call from her cell phone to check with some relevant government official regarding the matter one of the police officials had snatched the cell phone and verbally abused her.
Mishu said I requested the police to allow five minutes to get fresh and to get ready for the police custody. When I went to toilet the policewomen forcibly went inside the toilet with her. She said that I asked the police officials “How shall I use the toilet in your presence?” The police insisted me saying that “If you need to use toilet, you have to do it in our presence”.
Mishu said I tried to get a hand bag with her and necessary clothes but the police officials did not allow her to take anything. She said the police even restricted me to carry her medicine and “inhaler” that I need urgently whenever I have breathing difficulties due to chronic bronchial asthma.
Zebu said our family members humbly requested the police officials to allow Mishu, at least, to carry the emergency medicine and “inhaler” with her but the police denied permission.
The police officials came out of the house at around 1:30am and took her in a microbus of the DB police and started roaming here and there in the city. After roaming in the city for few hours they took her to the DB office at 36 Minto Road at around 5am said Mishu
Mishu said at around 7am the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Nazrul Islam, Assistant Commissioner (AC) Muniruz Zaman, AC Nasir of the DB of the DMP started interrogating her in a room of the DB office. The interrogation continued until 2pm that afternoon.
The police officials accused Mishu of instigating the workers of the Ready Made Garment (RMG) to go berserk at Kuril area and other places of the city. They also repeatedly enquired of which countries Mishu had visited and who funds her for her work. They also asked why she had not joined the “Mohajot Sorkar” (grand alliance government) led by the Bangladesh Awami League. Mishu told the police officials that she is a leftist politician, who had political ideological differences with the ruling political alliance. Referring to a few leftist politicians who are the part of ruling alliance the police rebuked Mishu for her ideological stand.
The police gave a plain paper and insisted her to sign on the paper. They asked Mishu to join the ruling alliance and told her that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gives priority to women and, if she were to sign the paper, Hasina would make her a minister. The police officials also asked if she were a pro-China leftist who was trying to close the garments industry of Bangladesh so that China can grab the whole RMG market of Bangladesh. Mishu said that the big pro-China man, Mr. Dilip Barua, is a minister of the government. The police accused her of trying to close the garment factories leading the female workers to become prostitutes said Mishu
At around 2pm, the police produced Mishu before the Chief Metropolitan Judicial Magistrate’s Court of Dhaka showing her arrested in three cases, two of them were registered with Kafrul and one case with Khilkhet police stations of the city of Dhaka.
Case -1: Case number 76 (6)10, which was registered with the Kafrul police (Government Register -GR no-386/10) under Sections 143,149, 323, 324, 325, 332, 333, 353, 427, 114 of the Penal Code-1860 on 30 June 2010.
Case-2: Case number 21 (12) 10 of the Kafrul police (GR no.854/10) under Sections 143, 448, 379, 427, 506 of Penal Code-1860 was registered on 9 December 2010.
Case-3: Case number 13 (12) 10 of Khilkhet police (GR no 255/10) was registered on 12 December 2010 under Sections 147,148,149, 332, 333, 353, 436, 379, 427,109 of the Penal Code-1860.
The police produced Mishu before the Metropolitan Magistrate Court of Dhaka in two cases of the Kafrul police station and sought police remand for 10 days in each of the two cases. Metropolitan Magistrate Mr. A I M Ismile Hossain granted two-days remand in the first case (no. 76 (6)10 ) of the Kafrul police station but rejected the remand prayer in the second case (no 21 (12)10.
On the same day, in the third case, which was registered with the Khilkhet police, Mishu was taken to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Dhaka. The First Additional Magistrate Mr. AHM Habibur Rahman Bhuiyan ordered the Khilkhet police to submit the Case Diary (CD) of the case on the following day.
At around 6pm in the evening the police again brought Mishu in DB office for further interrogation. They repeatedly asked the same questions that they did previously and they threatened her that if she did not sign in a blank piece of paper, she would suffer dire consequences that she had ever thought of. Mishu asked them if they would kill her and the police said that they wanted to kill or disappear her but that the media had already broadcasted and made news on her, which has messed up the plan. The threats and intimidations continued until midnight. Mishu did not eat any food in the police custody for fear of poisoning said Mishu
Mishu said the police forced Mishu to sleep on the floor of the police custody during her remand despite the fact that it was winter in the month of December in Bangladesh. During the whole period of police remand the police officers whoever interrogated Mishu asked the same questions along with intimidation and threats.
On 15 December, the First Additional Magistrate Mr. AHM Habibur Rahman Bhuiyan fixed 19 December to hear the petition for remand. After returning to the police custody the police officers repeatedly insisted her to sign on blank paper said Mishu
On 19 December, at the Court Custody where Mishu was detained before the hearing of the remand petition she had serious breathing difficulties. The police officials, who were called in to arrange medical treatment for Mishu, laughed at her and asked, “Why are you making drama?” The police did not allow Mishu any medical treatment despite her sister Zabunnesa Zebu requesting them to do so.
At around 3pm, Mishu was produced before the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court’s Magistrate Munshi Abdul Mazid again by the Khilkhet police for remanding her for five days. Instead of the First Additional Magistrate Mr. AHM Habibur Rahman Bhuiyan, who fixed that date for the hearing, Metropolitan Magistrate Munshi Abdul Mazid heard the petition of Khilkhet police. During the hearing Mishu had severe respiratory and spinal problems (which she had sustained due to police brutality in the past). Mishu’s lawyer argued in favour of her bail petition that the detainee was sick and was unable to stand on her own legs during the court’s proceedings. Mishu told before the Court that she was having difficulty in breathing and was panting and gasping for breath. The Metropolitan Magistrate Munshi Abdul Mazid allegedly said in the open court, “I have strict direction from the government that in any situation and at any cost not to grant bail to Mishu”. He ordered Mishu to go to the Khilkhet police custody in a one-day fresh remand in the third case, which was fabricated against her for vandalism, arson attack and obstruction of the police from performing their official duties, for further questioning.
After the hearing Mishu’s condition further deteriorated when she was brought back to the Court Custody but the police denied taking her to a hospital for treatment. Following repeated insistence by the relatives the Magistrate made order for Mishu’s treatment and only then was she rushed to the National Hospital where she was given oxygen and emergency treatment.
The National Hospital authorities soon referred her to the Bangabandhu Sheikh Muzib Medical University (BSMMU) around 5pm.But a police officer, who was present there before Mishu’s arrival, guided the authorities not to admit her in BSMMU. She was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DHMC) at around 9pm in the Medicine Female Ward No.19. The hospital authorities allegedly did not provide Mishu a proper bed, which normally should be allotted to a patient, due to the intervention by doctors who are affiliated to the ruling political party – Bangladesh Awami League. Instead, the pro-ruling party doctors, particularly Assistant Professor Mustifizur Rahman of the Medicine Unit allegedly insisted the police to take Mishu to the prison health centre inside the Dhaka Central Jail on excuse of unavailability of beds at the Ward No.19. As the Court ordered the police to admit Mishu to hospital they did not take her away from the DMCH. At night Mishu had attack of bronchial asthma due to cold for staying on the floor of the hospital.
On the following day, she was allotted a bed (No. 8 at the Ward No.19) until 5 January when she was shifted to Bed no.-7 of the same unit. The politically-motivated doctors allegedly called the DB officers to take Mishu away saying that the patient recovered her problems despite the fact that Mishu had not recovered. Mishu’s sister Zebu protested against the doctors deliberate attempts of releasing her sister without a proper treatment. Then, Dr. Mustifizur Rahman said to Zebu, “You are from the leftist political wing; that’s why I allowed you to enter in this room. I would have kicked you out of this place, if you were from the BNP –Jamaat (BNP is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party – the main opposition in the parliament and Jamaat is a rightist Islamic party, which is its ally)”. After a long argument regarding the medical ethics and responsibilities of the doctors Mishu’s sister Zebu managed to keep Mishu at the hospital. However, the DMCH authorities have allegedly not provided necessary medicine to Mishu and also compelled her family to do the required pathological tests from private clinics. Two policewomen and three armed policemen have been deployed to guard Mishu at her hospital ward. The policemen were seen sitting on in her bed at the hospital when human rights defenders went to see Mishu’s health condition there.
The police sought for a total of 30 days remand in the three cases – 10 days in each of the cases that had been fabricated against Mishu. The Courts and police did not follow the due process regarding the petitions for remand. The police applied for remand in plain paper whereas according to the Police Regulation of Bengal-1943 the police are instructed to apply for remand in a prescribed form: Bangladesh Police Form No. 90. The two Magistrates illegally entertained the remand petitions that allowed the police to torture the Mishu in custody. Even the Court guided that there should be lady police during the interrogation but the police did not follow that order. In two occasions Mishu was remanded by the police of Kafrul and Khilkhet respectively. Legally she should stay in the custodies of Kafrul and Khilkhet police. But, in fact, she was kept on remand under the custody of the DB office, which was violation of the law as she was not remanded by the DB police in those particular cases. However, the Courts have not taken any action against the police officers for violating the law.
The family is financial hardship for the payments for medication, lawyer and communications that have been incurred after the arbitrary detention of Mishu and fabrication of cases against her. The whole family is now under intelligence surveillance and afraid of being harmed by the state-agents. They fear to receive a call on their phones and commuting from to home to their respective work places.
The family fears that the police are trying their best to take Mishu, who has chronic bronchial asthma, again in remand where she has continuously been ill-treated by the police during a chilling cold winter. The relatives are afraid that the police may kill Mishu and then claim that she died of a heart attack as the law-enforcing agencies of the country habitually do.
Asian Human Rights Commission has already written separate letters to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Special Rapporteurs on Independent of Judges and Lawyers and Violence Against Women requesting their prompt interventions in this case.