A senior journalist, Mr. Gias Ahmed (43), who works as Joint News Editor of a private television channel-Desh TV was severely tortured by police.
Mr. Gias said to Srilanka Guardian that on 14 February 2011, at around 4:30pm, when he was going to his office at Malibagh from Dhanmondi along the Panthopath Road of the city of Dhaka. When his car bearing registration number: Dhaka Metro – Gha 14 6323, driven by his driver Mahmud Hasan Daud, arrived at the SARC Fountain roundabout near to the Bashundara city traffic congestion trapped everyone.
Gias said his car with hundreds of others remained at almost a standstill despite several changes of the traffic signals. Until 5:30pm the on duty traffic police held all the vehicles of the Panthopath Road while they allowed only the vehicles of the Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue to cross the junction. He said the prolonged traffic congestion appeared to have been due to mismanagement by the on duty traffic police at the area.
Gisa said after an hour and a quarter the traffic police directed the vehicles that waited to drive straight after crossing the junction at SARC Fountain roundabout to turn right toward the Bangla Motro direction without any understandable reason.
Gias said his car was also asked to turn towards the Bangla Motor direction and the traffics moved at their slowest speed. Still traveling slowly when the car reached the SARC Fountain roundabout and had been halted again Gias asked an on duty traffic police the reason of the mismanagement of the traffic system. Gias also suggested the police constable, whose name appeared “Mosharaf” in his name badge, that instead of blocking a particular road for hours the police could allow through at least few vehicles in short intervals to avoid prolonged standstill traffic trap in other roads adjacent to that point.
In response, the policeman made a very ugly gesture at Gias showing the cane in the policeman’s hand and shouted at Gias saying “chor” (thief). Constable Mosharaf asked Gias’s name, abused him verbally and indicated that he should get out of the car, said Gias
Getting out of the car Gias asked the policeman the reason for this gesture and why he had to alight from the vehicle. Without warning the policeman raised his stick and started to beat Gias while manhandling him. At that stage, Gias introduced himself as a journalist and requested the officer to stop.
The policeman continued to beat Gias and two plain clothed men, who were later identified as police-sources, and three police officers, namely Sergeants S M Asad, Ashraf and M A Baten joined constable Mosharaf.
They beat Gias indiscriminately with sticks, fists, and kicked him in full view of the other motorists in public. Due to the assault Gias’s spectacles were broken and his eyes, particularly the right eye, were swollen.
They dragged Gias to a nearby police outpost where the policemen continued to torture Gias in a similar manner as they did on the street. At the time of torture Gias tried to call his colleagues at the Desh TV in order to inform them about his situation but, the police officers snatched his cell phone.
Meanwhile, a police vehicle arrived at the police outpost with a plain clothed police officer, who was later identified as Sub Inspector (SI) Jahangir Alam, attached to the Tejgaon police station. SI Jahangir came to Gias and said, “Let’s go to thana (police station). We will hang you, nail you, give electric shocks and as many methods as you need. We will push hot egg through your anus. Then, we will see who the hell you are!”
At around 6;15 pm the policemen dragged Gias to the police van, which was parked at Karwan Bazar near to the office of a national daily newspaper, beating him as they did so. In the vehicle two policemen sat on each side of Gias.
They told him it was to prevent him from escaping by jumping from the van. Gias showed his identity card and asserted that as a journalist he fights for what is just and will never try to escape. The police officers all used filthy language and laughed at Gias, saying, “We did not understand that you are a journalist. We thought you were a street-hawker and pretending to be a journalist.”
Gias asked, “If I am hawker, can you torture me like this?” The police then beat him again. The policemen boastfully shouted at Gias by saying in filthy language, “We have seized (beaten) many journalists; and, nothing (has) happen(ed) to us. Nothing will happen at the end, if we beat you.”
A policeman suddenly accused Gias of possessing arms illegally and the others started searching him body in a humiliating manner. A police source, who was on board carrying a gun underneath his shirt, showed Gias the gun and threatened that they will fabricate a criminal charge against him using that weapon. They intimidated him by saying that “You will languish in jail for 44 years, and will never be freed, if we do what we can!” The police named many journalists with the names of their respective media and said, “If you are a true journalist, so what? We are capable of taking care of many men who are bigger than you!”
After arriving at the Tejgaon police station the police dragged Gias down from the van and took him to the office of the on duty officer, who asked him to wait, sitting on a chair. The police, who tortured Gias and brought him to the police station, were shouting that “He (Gias) is a hawker! He should be put inside the police cell! His legs and hands must be tied up with Danda Beri (two long iron rods ringed together at one end to fasten to the groin and having two separate rings at the other end to tie up the ankles of human body as a method of torture, punishment and humiliation during a detainee’s public movement in Bangladesh)! Gias gave his name card to the police officer and requested him to check with the Desh TV about his true identity. The Duty Officer insisted Gias to put his signature on a statement that he (Gias) had committed a crime for which he was brought to the police station and upon his (Gias’s) written apology and guarantee of not committing the same crime in furture the police will release him. Gias refused to give a fabricated statement to the police and strongly told the police to specify the crime to which they referred to and produce him before a court, which police did not agree to.
During the dialogue one of the police-sources approached to him and demanded money by saying, “Give some money and make your way out! As Gias strongly refused to pay a penny to the police, the surrounding policemen said in filthy language, “Brother-in-law still erupts despite so much torture!” For refusing to pay the money the police transferred Gias to a police cell. A policeman came to the cell and asked about his home town and Gias, replied that he was from Gopalganj district (which is the home district of the incumbent Prime Minister of Bangladesh). The policeman spoke in a manner so as to suggest that Gias was inferior to him (police), “Do you know that all the OCs (Officer-in-Charge) of the police stations of the city of Dhaka are from Gopalganj? Being a man from Gopalganj, who are in power, you are beaten in this manner! It’s a pity!” Despite the degrading and humiliating behaviour Gias decided not to protest fearing further torture.
Meanwhile, a number of journalists, photo-journalists and camera-crew among various media arrived at the Tejgaon police station. The journalists were restricted from taking photo of Gias in the police cell by the police officers. Both the police and the journalists argued with each other regarding the reason for torturing and detaining Gias at the police cell as well as the serious injuries that were plainly visible on his face and body. After a long debate the police brought Gias to the office room of the on duty officer. A medical doctor named Mr. Miraj Ahmed, a personal friend of Gias who learned about the incident, came to the Tejgaon police and was able to provide some first aid to the victim while he was still in police custody at around 11pm.
As time passed on more journalists, including the President of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) Mr. Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury and other renowned senior journalists, came to the police station. The journalist leaders saw Gias’ injuries and slated the police for torturing him in such a brutal manner. They insisted the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of the Tejgaon police station Inspector Mahbubur Rahman in presence of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the Tejgaon Zone of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Mr. Salim Mohammad Jahangir and Additional Deputy Commissioner (Public Relations) of the DMP Mr. Masud Hossain to call in the perpetrators. Then two of them – Sergeant Ashraful and Constable Musharaf – were called in the office room of the OC to explain the situation. Constable Mosharaf claimed that Gias beat him on the street for no reason and in return he (the policeman) defended himself while Sergeant Ashraful claimed that “Gias was beaten by the mob and the police rescued him”. The senior police officers rebuked them by saying, “Don’t we understand what happened and what you claim after 11pm of the night?” Later, the two perpetrators told that they suspected Gias to be a hawker when they beat him.
After a long discussion between the senior police officers and senior journalist leaders Gias was released from the police station at around 12:45am early in the morning of 15 February without any charge being made against any of the perpetrators. The police officers told the journalists to forget everything and not to publicise the incident through the media with an assurance that the matter will be investigated properly by the police authorities.
After having been released Gias went to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) for the treatment of his injuries in the early morning of 15 February. The doctors prescribed some drugs after examining him and referred him to specialist doctors for the injuries in his right eye.
Later, the DMP formed a two-member departmental probe committee comprising of Additional Deputy Commissioner (Traffic) of the West Zone Md. Elias Sharif and Sergeant Hasnat Nazmul Alam. The committee visited Gias’s house and took a statement from Gias’s car driver Mahmud Hasan Daud, who was key witness at the time the police tortured Gias on the street. Neither the committee nor the DMP authorities has yet released any information regarding the findings of the departmental probe until now.
Prominent journalist Shah Alamgir , the president of Dhaka Union of Journalist (DUJ) said to Srilanka Guardian that the incident of torture on journalist Gias Ahmed is neither an isolated case nor it is an attempt to scandalize the police. Torture is a default practice by the law-enforcement agencies and security forces that everyone knows very well about. This case is yet another record of what happens in everyday life at the hands of the police in Bangladesh. There are many journalist around the country who are facing threats and torture while doing their professional duties .He said there are precedent while journalist were even beat up by the member of the parliament.
I have learned that Asian Human Rights Commission has written letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment seeking his intervention regarding this case. We are also preparing for further campaign.