The 32-year-old from Tangail was wrongly accused and jailed in corruption cases for the past three years
The last three years have been long and languishing for Jahalam, an ordinary jute mill worker from Tangail.
He has been in prison since May 2016 after being wrongly accused by the Sonali Bank Limited and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and arrested in 33 graft cases.
But it meant the world for the 32-year-old and his family when he stepped into their home at Dhuburia in Tangail’s Nagarpur upazila in the early hours of Monday.
Released from Dhaka Central Jail 2 in Gazipur’s Kashimpur around 1am, following a High Court order issued on Sunday, Jahalam and his brother Shahanur Mia reached their home around 4am.
Jahalam was received by his five siblings and other relatives in an emotionally charged atmosphere, while his mother Monowara Begum held him tight and broke down in tears after seeing her son who spent the past three years behind bars despite being innocent.
Later in the morning, many locals from different areas of the upazila thronged the family’s home to see Jahalam, son of Monowara and Yusuf Ali.
Talking to reporters, Jahalam said: “The ACC has made me serve three years in prison even though I did not commit any crime, and wasted these years of my life.
“I want those who lied while testifying against me and the ACC officials who brought false charges against me punished. I urge the prime minister and the government to ensure that they are brought to book.”
Thanking the people who played major roles in his release, Jahalam demanded compensation from the authorities concerned for his three-year-long ordeal.
With tears in her eyes, Monowara begum thanked the mass media and demanded justice for her son. “I’m happy that my son has returned in my arms.
“But we want compensation so that we can pay back the loans we took.”
Shahanur also urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the authorities concerned to ensure justice for his brother.
Jute mill to jail
A worker of Bangladesh Jute Mills in Narsingdi’s Ghorashal, Jahalam was arrested in 2016 after he was mistaken for one Abu Salek – who is originally accused in 33 cases filed over loan fraud and embezzlement of Tk18.5 crore from Sonali Bank Limited.
According to media reports, the ACC in 2014 had prosecuted Salek in these cases.
However, officials of the corruption watchdog, bank and police had mistakenly identified Jahalam as Salek, which led to the jute mill worker’s arrest in 2016 while Jahalam’s claims of innocence fell on deaf ears.
His ordeal came to light and was brought to the High Court's attention after Bangla daily Prothom Alo ran a report last week.
On January 28, in a suo moto, the court had summoned a representative of the ACC chairman, the cases’ plaintiff and the ACC investigation officer, and two other representatives from the home and law ministries to explain why Jahalam — instead of the real accused — had been in jail for the past three years.
On Sunday, the court directed the prison authorities to immediately release Jahalam after a hearing on the summons and a ruling over the legality of his imprisonment.
The court passed the order after the officials who were summoned appeared before it and provided explanations.
After the hearing, Jahalam’s lawyer Amit Das Gupta told reporters that the court exempted Jahalam in 26 out of 33 cases. “However, the court has not given any order regarding seven other cases as their charge sheets are yet to be filed.”