The repeated failure of the prosecution and law enforcement agencies to prove allegations of cyber crime has resulted in a paltry conviction rate of only 5% over the past five years, according to the records of the Cyber Tribunal (Bangladesh) in Dhaka.
There have been only 16 successful convictions across 12 of the 236 cases heard before the tribunal since its inception in February 2013.
In 129 of the other cyber crime cases, the accused were cleared of all charges in the final report submitted before the tribunal by police.
The tribunal discharged the accused in a further 59 cases without taking charges into cognizance, while the defendants in 36 cases were acquitted as the prosecution failed to prove the charges during the trial.
Experts claimed the main reason the prosecution has been failing to prove allegations is their lack of knowledge on Information Communication Technology (ICT) and negligence.
In addition, sources from among lawyers also alleged that the high acquittal rate was due to the prosecution being weak in the handling of cyber crime cases.
Qazi Zahed Iqbal, a lawyer who has dealt with a number of cyber crime-related cases, told the Dhaka Tribune that investigation officers are submitting faulty probe reports due to their poor knowledge about ICT.
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“The prosecution lawyers are also not experienced in dealing with cyber crime cases (and) have some weakness as this is a new type of offence,” he said. “As a result, it is difficult for the prosecution to prove the charges.”
Cyber Tribunal Special Public Prosecutor Md Nazrul Islam Shamim denied that the prosecution was at fault, but conceded that reports from investigation officers were often poor.
“We are trying our best but still failing to prove the charges because of poor probe reports, as the investigation officers lack experience in handling such crimes,” the state lawyer said.
“Now, the criminal investigation department (CID), Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) and the cyber crime unit of Dhaka Metropolitan police (DMP) are giving training to the investigation officers of the ICT cases, and we are hopeful that the conviction rate will increase in coming days.”
Mirash Uddin, additional deputy commissioner of Police’s criminal intelligence and prosecution wing, told the Dhaka Tribune that all probe reports were submitted before the tribunal only after getting the opinion of CID cyber crime experts.
“The main reason the conviction rate is poor is because the prosecution lawyers are not properly producing witnesses before the court to give testimonies in the cases,” he said.
The Cyber Tribunal received three cases in 2013, 33 in 2014, 152 in 2015, 233 in 2016, 568 in 2017, and 114 in the first month of 2018.
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Most of the cases were filed under the ICT Act on charges of uploading indecent pictures of women to Facebook and other sites, hurting religious sentiment, making indecent remarks about important people, publishing false and defamatory reports on newspapers and online news portals, hacking bank passwords, and leaking exam question papers.
On August 11, 2014, Detective Branch (DB) of police Inspector Md Sirajul Islam filed a case with Shahbagh police station in Dhaka against Md Abdul Karim Khan, a member of the Airport Armed Police Battalion (APBN), on charges of conducting a negative campaign against police through a Facebook page using the Bangladesh Police logo.
According to the police report, Karim posted many indecent posts regarding top officials of police through the Facebook page, which was titled “Bangladesh Police”.
On April 14, 2015, police submitted a charge sheet against Karim after the investigation officer confirmed his involvement in the incident.
He was charged under sections 57 (1) and 57 (2) of the ICT act for making indecent comments on the page, with all 10 witnesses in the case testifying against Karim before the Cyber Tribunal.
However, the accused was acquitted of all charges on March 20 last year, as the prosecution lawyers failed to prove the allegations.