• Saturday, Oct 24, 2020
  • Last Update : 10:54 pm

The odyssey of a disappearance

  • Published at 12:26 am September 29th, 2020
Entrance of Satkhira Thana Dhaka tribune
  • Police deny picking up homeopath on August 4, 2016
  • Judicial probe finds family’s claims to be true
  • Departmental action still underway against 3 accused cops
  • Local lawyers unwilling to represent victim family
  • Financial crisis stopping family from continuing legal battle

This is the story of homeopathic physician Sheikh Mokhlesur Rahman Jony, who allegedly disappeared from a local police station in Satkhira after being picked up four years ago.

His family members are still waiting to know about his whereabouts, while his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter has been growing up without a father.

Jony was supposed to bring some medicines for his ailing father from Satkhira New Market on the night of August 4, 2016, but he never came back. Family members came to know of the involvement of the local police in his disappearance when a team of policemen stormed their house to “search” it that very night.

His wife Jasmin Nahar, who has been fighting a long battle for justice, claimed the family had visited Jony in the lockup at Satkhira Sadar police station with homemade food on three consecutive days. But on the fourth day they did not find him there, while police allegedly told them that he had been sent to Dhaka.

Later, the police denied that they had Jony in their custody when the High Court inquired of high officials of the force about Jony’s whereabouts. The police also claimed that Jony had been involved with a militant group named Allahr Dal.

The High Court in May 2017 ordered a judicial probe after Jasmin filed a writ petition seeking its intervention to find out Jony’s whereabouts.

The judicial investigation later found Jasmin’s claims that Jony was picked up by the policemen to be true. It also recommended legal actions against a number of them.

The inquiry findings, submitted in court a month later, also suggested that the police labelled Jony a militant without investigation and strong evidence.

The probe body could not collect the Call Detail Record (CDR) of the accused policemen for scrutiny, as mobile companies do not preserve records for more than one year. In the end,therefore, Jony remained without trace.

Later, the court asked the inspector general of police (IGP) to take departmental action against the accused officers, and said Jony’s family might choose to file a complaint case in court or a general diary (GD) at the police station concerned.

The Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI), which also investigated the matter following the High Court order in 2017, said that it was the duty of the police to find out a missing person. But local police did not record any case or GD following the family’s allegations, which is a breach of law.

 The PBI recommended departmental action against Satkhira Sadar police station Sub-Inspector (SI) Himel Hossain and the then OCs Md Emdadul Haque Sheikh and Md Feroz Hossain Mollah.

Feroz, who had replaced Emdadul after Jony’s disappearance, reportedly did not agree to accept the family’s move to file a GD.

Feroz is now the OC of Sitakunda police station in Chittagong. Emdad was recently transferred from Khulna’s Paikgachha police station to Chittagong Range. But he is yet to join his new place of duty.

Himel is now a member of the Munshiganj court police unit as an SI.

Money trouble and unwilling lawyers

Despite the court’s green light, Jony’s family is yet to file a case due to financial constraints and claimed that no lawyer in Satkhira would take up their case.

“We approached several lawyers, but none of them agreed to take up the case,” Jasmin told Dhaka Tribune, adding that the family planned to move the High Court again.

Jony’s family is now struggling to survive through a financial crisis since the earning member is gone, making them incapable of continuing the legal battle.

Jasmin, meanwhile, got married again last year. She now has another daughter with her second husband.

Jony’s 64-year-old father, who partially lost his ability to walk in a road accident, works as a receptionist at a local hotel. Jony’s brother had gone to Qatar, but he was sold to a broker and spent an inhuman life there. 

What the judicial probe found

The then senior judicial magistrate Habibullah Mahmud of Satkhira submitted his detailed judicial inquiry report to the High Court in July 2017.

The report noted that former OC Emdad and SI Himel were directly involved with the arrest and disappearance of Jony.

Jasmin’s statement of visiting Jony at Sadar police station with his father on August 5, 6 and 7 in 2016 was also true, it added.

The magistrate interviewed 23 people, including the policemen, witnesses and Jony’s family members during the probe.

The probe team also examined a police report that denied police involvement in the affair, visited the police station, and went through the station’s custody register book and GD register.

As evidence, the magistrate also examined a conversation between Jasmin and SI Himel recorded by the former.

‘Police did pick up Jony’

In the police register, there was no entry regarding Jony’s detention that night and a raid in his house afterwards. But Jony’s neighbours told the probe body that they had seen cops at Jony’s home that night.

As proof of visiting Jony at the police station, Jasmin said she had met one Shahnaz Aktar alias Sonamoni, wife of another detainee named Asadur Rahman, at the police station compound. She was unable to provide Shahnaz’s details, but the probe body managed to find her and found Jasmin’s claims to be true.

The two women, who met there for the first time, made identical statements before the probe body.

The magistrate also interviewed Asadur, who was in the Sadar police station lockup on August 7. Asadur could not recall Jony’s name but recognized him when he was shown a photo. He said he and Jony shared food which came from Jony’s home and said their prayers in the cell together.

Another detainee named Aminul Islam also confirmed to the magistrate that Jony had indeed been in the custody of the Sadar police

Jasmin told the probe body that SI Himel, who picked up Jony, had asked her to bring the National ID cards of all family members. She went there with the ID cards on August 10, 2016 and handed them over to Himel. Jasmin recorded the conversation with him on the day.

File photo of Homeopathic physician Sheikh Mokhlesur Rahman Jony | Collected

The conversation hinted that the NID card numbers were used to prepare a report to be submitted to the high-ups. The then OC Feroz also confirmed to the probe body that the male voice was Himel’s.

The magistrate also quizzed Himel about the NID cards. He did not answer clearly, and claimed he was not given any assignment about picking Jony up.

If Jony was not in police custody, there was no point of collecting his family members’ NID cards, the probe body said.

From August 8, 2016, Jasmin began frantic efforts to find her husband. It was the day Jony went missing from the police station. 

She went to the office of the Satkhira superintendent of police (SP) on October 24, but the SP did not meet her. The then SP, Md Altaf Hossain, also claimed, while talking to the judicial probe body, that Jasmin had not gone to his office.

Enter the ‘militant ties’

As per court order, Md Ekramul Habib, the additional DIG of police in the Khulna Range, submitted a report in court in April 2017.

He had interviewed the SP, three inspectors, an SI, two ASIs, three constables of Sadar police station and five other people.

The inquiry found that on the night of August 4, 2016 a team led by SI Himel arrested one Md Jul Hasan and returned to the police station at 5:05am. He did not arrest anyone named Sheikh Mokhlesur Rahman Jony.

SP Altaf and OC Feroz, in a written statement, told the police probe body that Jony was involved with militancy. They claimed he had become a member of Allahr Dal in 2009 and attended all meetings of the outfit. In December 2014, he was selected as Nayek of Satkhira district. He used to spend a portion of his earnings for the outfit.

In the new committee in 2016, Jony became the deputy chief of the outfit’s Khulna division wing, they claimed, adding he went missing on July 1, 2016 after the Holey Artisan massacre in Dhaka’s Gulshan.

Altaf claimed that nobody informed police about his disappearance. They only knew about Jony after his wife arranged a press conference and the media ran reports on the matter.

The SP said he ordered an investigation which found that no police unit had arrested Jony. He also formed a three-member committee, comprising Additional SP AKM Ariful Haque, ASP (Sadar) Md Humayun Kabir and District Special Branch (DSB) officer Md Mizanur Rahman.

The committee concluded that Jony had not been arrested before his disappearance. Police high-ups asked the SP to take steps to find out Jony and produce him in court.

When the judicial committee asked SP Altaf about the source of his claim that Jony was an Allahr Dal member, he referred to his probe body members and the then Satkhira police OC.

But the committee members said they had never investigated Jony’s militant connection, while OC Emdad maintained that he had no such information.

Satkhira DSB officials said they also had no information on Jony's Allahr Dal ties.

A fake arrest?

About Jul Hasan, the judicial probe report said, according to the GD copy, it was SI Abul Kalam and SI Malek who arrested him  at around 3:45am on August 3, 2016 and released him at around 6:10am.

The police station’s register book also contains the same information. But Jul Hasan told the probe body during questioning that he was never arrested.

The report thus concluded that the police probe report lied about his arrest, and tried to cover up Jony’s arrest.

The judicial probe body concluded that police picked up Jony and kept him in the lockup for three days before his disappearance. Himel and Emdad were directly involved alongside the district police high-ups.

The judicial magistrate said Jony’s whereabouts could have been ascertained from the call lists of the accused policemen, but during investigation the director general of National Security Intelligence did not cooperate in getting the call lists despite requests.

What now?

Jasmin told Dhaka Tribune that Khulna Additional SP ANM Wasim Feroz met Jony’s family members recently in Satkhira.

She said they told Wasim that they were informed about departmental inquiries against SI Himel and former OCs Feroz and Emdad after Jony went missing. “But we never got any updates.”

“He [Wasim] wanted to know how my husband was picked up, what the police officers’ roles were,” she said regarding Wasim’s visit.

“We told him that the police recorded our statements years ago but there had been no result. He assured us that this time we would get a positive result,” she added.

According to a 2017 internal memo, the Police Headquarters had moved to take departmental action against Himel, Emdad and Feroz.

Contacted, Wasim confirmed to Dhaka Tribune about his going to Satkhira and meeting Jony’s family.

He said the Police Headquarters last month ordered him to conduct an inquiry on Emdad and Feroz, after a departmental case was filed against them over negligence in duty as their explanation on the matter had been unsatisfactory.

After the judicial probe report was submitted in court in 2017, the High Court in January 2018 ordered the IGP to take departmental action against Himel, Emdad and Feroz.

Asked why action had been due against them for the past two years, Wasim said: “This is a continuous process and it takes time.”

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