Rights defenders raise questions about police role, slam home minister for his remark
Former Sonagazi police station Officer-in-Charge (OC), Moazzem Hossain, went into hiding, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan has confirmed.
"He (OC Moazzem) will definitely be punished for his wrongdoings, no matter how big or small,” the minister said, adding that the former OC will have to face the music for his role in the murder of Feni madrasa student Nusrat Jahan Rafi.
"Moazzem is on the run, and this is why it is taking time to arrest him. No one is above the law," the minister said, addressing the press after the Eid holidays at the Secretariat yesterday.
It took over a week for the authorities concerned to send copies of the arrest warrant for the former Sonagazi OC, to Feni and Rangpur police stations.
But dilly dallying over sending the warrants to concerned police ranges was 'just to help the OC flee,’ claimed rights defenders.
Deputy inspector of police of the Rangpur range, Debdas Bhattacharya, yesterday said they have received the warrant and OC Moazzem remains absent from his office without any prior permission.
The top police official also said proper procedure was not followed in sending the warrant to Rangpur police and that he would speak to Feni police about acting according to procedure.
It also took over a week for the Feni police to receive the warrant from the tribunal in Dhaka even though the warrant was issued on May 27.
Kazi Moniruzzaman, superintendent of Feni Police, said the last location of OC Moazzem was in Rangpur. “Upon receiving the warrant on June 3, it was sent to the Rangpur range,” he saidd.
What helped Moazzem flee?
Noted human rights defenders slammed the government and police authorities for 'indirectly allowing' OC Moazzem to go into hiding, and accused the police of helping him flee the country.
“When people like OC Moazzem go into hiding, a police official accused of negligence in duty in a sensational murder case that shook the whole nation, some quarter has surely assisted him by dragging out his arrest procedure,” said Dr Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.
“With his statement that Moazzem is on the run, the home minister is trying to make fools of the people. Action should be taken against everyone involved in the process, for negligence, if Moazzem is not arrested and is not placed on trial immediately,” he said.
Former Ain O Salish Kendra director Nur Khan Liton also found the slow process of delivering the arrest warrant, to be a bid to help Moazeem flee.
“When an official of a law enforcement agency gets involved in a crime and we see authorities slowing down the process of apprehending him, instead of meting out strict and speedy punishment, it indicates the process has been slowed down to help him/her flee from being put behind bars,” he said.
“The government should immediately launch an investigation to find out how this happened and who were negligent and instrumental in helping Moazzem flee. Earlier we have seen the home minister giving assurances about the immediate arrest of many criminals, but this time he is saying the arrest will take time as Moazzem is on the run. This is not acceptable from a home minister,” said rights defender Liton.
If criminals gain such favours from the government, it may give an impression to the people that the state directly helps law enforcement agencies to evade the law and that can only deteriorate the rule of law in a country, he added.
Supreme Court lawyer Syedul Haque Sumon, who filed the case against Moazzem, said Moazzem has fled taking advantage of police procrastination.
“If he flees the country, police will have to take responsibility for that, ” he said, adding: “The inspector general of police should have initiated the required actions himself, considering the sensitivity of the case, but he did not. Since the warrant has now been received by police in both Feni and Rangpur, it is their responsibility to arrest Moazzem and produce him in court.”
According to the case details, Nusrat went to Sonagazi model police station to file a case against Sonagazi Islamia Fazil (Degree) Madrasa Principal Sirajuddaula on March 27 for sexually assaulting her the day before.
Moazzem recorded a video of her statement without her consent, asking her offensive and insulting questions. The video then surfaced on various social media platforms. It was alleged that Moazzem had put up the video.
Moazzem, whose voice was heard on the video, had also appeared unconcerned about Nusrat’s complaints and said the sexual assault was not a major incident. He asked Nusrat to go home, and assured her of taking steps in accordance with her written complaint. However, no action was taken against Sirajuddaula.
Nusrat, 18, an Alim examinee,was set on fire by Sirajuddaula’s followers on April 6 for refusing to withdraw the rape attempt case her family had filed against him. She died from the injuries four days later.
On April 10, Moazzem was withdrawn from his post as OC and transferred to the Armed Police Battalion, after Nusrat’s family said he had not been cooperating with them.
On April 11, Supreme Court lawyer Syedul Haque Sumon saw the video on social media, which prompted him to file a petition against Moazzem for breaking the law.
Barrister Sumon then filed a case against Moazzem under the Digital Security Act on May 15. The Dhaka Cyber Tribunal ordered the OC's arrest on May 27 when the PBI found the allegations against him to be true.
Later, OC Moazzem filed a bail petition with the High Court. The hearing for the case is scheduled for June 11.