• Sunday, May 31, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:42 pm

'Lay low for now, avoid talking to the media'

  • Published at 08:31 pm March 17th, 2020
Former Kurigram Deputy Commissioner (DC) Sultana Pervin, Ariful
Former Kurigram deputy commissioner Sultana Pervin, left, and Dhaka Tribune journalist Ariful Islam Reagan Collected

After tortured Ariful Islam was released on bail, Sultana Pervin phoned him also to say that threatening him with ‘encounter’ was not intended

Former Kurigram Deputy Commissioner (DC) Sultana Pervin contacted the Kurigram correspondent of Dhaka Tribune and Bangla Tribune, Ariful Islam, right after he got bail on Sunday and asked him to lay low for a while and to avoid talking to the media.

She also said: "Do not worry about your future, I am there for you. I will withdraw the case too, just give me a little time. Look at this positively."

As soon as Ariful Islam Rigan got out on bail, the now withdrawn Kurigram DC Sultana Pervin contacted him over phone by getting in touch with one of his friends.

The conversation, an audio copy of the recording which Dhaka Tribune has obtained, apparently somewhat links her to the wrongful arrest and incarceration of the journalist.

When Ariful asked her if he had really done anything he should be executed for, she replied: "We did not actually plan to 'encounter' you."

'Encounter' is the term used in South Asian countries to label and justify extrajudicial killings by the police or other forces, in supposed self defence on the explanation that they have encountered suspected gangsters or terrorists in gun battles.

In the early hours of Saturday, a mobile court consisting of at least 40 people directed by then DC Sultana and led by Senior Assistant Commissioner Nazim Uddin broke into Dhaka Tribune journalist Ariful Islam's house.

After subjecting him to a severe beating, they sentenced him to a year in prison and fined him Tk50,000, allegedly for half a bottle of alcohol and 150gm of the contraband drug marijuana in his possession.

They then took him to the deputy commissioner's office and blindfolded him. They stripped him and tortured him, all the while threatening to execute him.

DC Sultana's men also took his signature on four papers while he was blindfolded.

The incident sparked immediate protests by journalists around the country.

The government ordered an investigation into the matter within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a writ petition was filed with the High Court on Sunday seeking an order declaring the conviction of Ariful illegal.

When the situation got out of hand, Sultana herself reportedly arranged his bail on Sunday.

Freedom from jail without asking for bail, tortured and ailing, Ariful was unaware of the moves to get him out of prison.

That is when Sultana Pervin reached out to him over phone. The call was recorded.

Sultana ducks Ariful's questions

Ariful Islam Rigan said: "When she contacted me over phone I asked to talk to her in person. She could not give me a proper answer to any of my questions. She just gave me assurances and asked me to keep quiet.

"I was traumatized and worried about my future," he added.

Dhaka Tribune tried contacting Sultana several times but she did not respond. Since the Ministry of Public Administration removed her from her post on Sunday, she has been avoiding journalists.

During the phone conversation on Sunday, Sultana first asked Ariful about his physical condition. Ariful then asked her why he had been beaten mercilessly. 

She did not give a clear answer to the question.

When Ariful asked her about the four papers he was forced to sign, she said whatever papers he had signed she would give them back to him.

She also told him: "Let the matter go. I also regret what happened. Take rest and lay low for now."

Ariful told her: "You could have called me to your office. I would have come."

She replied: "Of course you would. I know you will come if I call you now too. You are in pain now, that pains me too. Just look at the incident positively now."

Ariful insisted he needed to know why he had been tortured like that and why his signatures had been taken. He also expressed concerns about his future.

She reassured him: "You have nothing to worry about. I wish you good health."

On the matter of talking to the media, she told him to keep quiet for now. She also said that she would withdraw the case against him.

On Monday, three other district officials - Senior Assistant Commissioner Nazim Uddin, Executive Magistrates Rintu Kanti Das and SM Rahatul Islam - were also withdrawn from their posts. All three of them took part in the raid on Ariful’s home and the subsequent assaults on him.

Meanwhile, the High Court on Monday has asked people concerned to submit all documents related to Ariful's conviction and bail by the next hearing on March 23.

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