Ripon Ahmed Bhutto was released Tuesday evening after 18 months of imprisonment while pretending to be another man.
What was Bhutto thinking when he agreed to masquerade as a convict sentenced to life imprisonment? A thousand notes of Tk1000 denomination.
It took only Tk10lakh to seduce Bhutto to act as the proxy for Iqbal Hossain Bakul – a 26-year-old convicted for murder.
In September 2009, Ali Akbar Sumon, a 24-year-old from Chanpur village in Sylhet sadar upazila was found dead in a nearby haor. A quick trial tribunal sentenced three people to life after a case was filed.
The three sentenced – Giyas, 34, his wife Rozina Begum, 32, and Iqbal Hossain Bakul, 26 – were residents of the nearby Hausa village.
Bakul’s family courted Bhutto, a truck driver in the Syed Mugni part of Sylhet city. After much cajoling and convincing, greed won over for Tk10lakh in cash, of which only Tk50,000 was paid up front. The other Tk9.5lakh was to be paid after Bakul’s family bailed him out after three months. The entire scheme was concocted to ensure Bakul could flee the country scot-free.
Bhutto, masquerading as Bakul, surrendered to the court in November 2015. Bakul’s family and lawyer played along with the charade with utmost sincerity. The court sent Bhutto to Sylhet Central Jail immediately for incarceration.
After 14 months of imprisonment, Bhutto realised he was conned. Nobody was bailing him out, nobody was paying him the promised money either. He revealed the deception to the prison authorities. Soon, the charade was revealed to the media, followed by several news channels running special reports on real-life enactment of the film “Aynabaji” which shares a similar plot. News outlets pounced upon the story of a convict who was wrongfully incarcerated, but mostly due to his own consent.
Freedom from incarceration
On May 16 Tuesday, Bhutto walked out a free man from Sylhet Central Jail. But how free is he really?
Senior Jailer Md Chhagir Mia told the Dhaka Tribune that Sylhet Division Quick Trial Tribunal Judge Maqbul Ahsan granted Bhutto’s release on Tuesday afternoon.
Chhagir Mia said Bhutto has also been granted in a case filed against him for fraud since he pretended to be someone else to take on their punishment.
The case was filed based on the recommendations of a two-member judicial probe committee formed in January 2017 to look into the matter.
The probe committee recommended that punitive measures be taken against Bhutto, Sylhet district bar lawyer Shah Alam, apprentice lawyer Shamim Ahmed, and Liakat Hossain, a broker at the deputy commissioner’s office.
The senior superintendent of jail was assigned the task of taking action against the responsible parties. In February 2017, the case was filed against the aforementioned four for fraud.
The judicial probe committee also recommended that Shah Alam and Shamim be disbarred and the deputy commissioner’s office freed from the malevolent influence of brokers.
Where is he?
The real culprit, Bakul, is still on the run. According to TV reports, his father denied knowing where Bakul is, saying Bakul fled the country years ago and has not contacted him since.
Law enforcement agencies are actively looking for Bakul, and remain uncertain over his current whereabouts. Chhagir Mia said if they find evidence that he fled abroad, then Bakul’s information will be sent to the Interpol to find him anywhere in the world.