The court stays the journalist’s mobile court conviction for six months
The High Court has asked the officer-in-charge of Kurigram Sadar police station to accept the attempted murder case filed by Dhaka Tribune journalist Ariful Islam.
The court also asked the OC to file a First Information Report (FIR) against former Kurigram deputy commissioner Sultana Pervin, former senior assistant commissioner (RDC) Nazim Uddin, two former executive magistrates, and 35/40 unknown people for the questionable arrest, incarceration, and torture of Ariful.
The two magistrates are former assistant commissioners Rintu Biswas Chakma and SM Rahatul Islam.
Furthermore, the court stayed Ariful’s mobile court conviction for six months and issued a rule asking why all proceedings against the journalist in mobile court case 06/2020 should not be declared illegal.
Fourteen people have been made respondents to the ruling, including the secretaries of the Cabinet Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, Ministry of Public Administration, and the director general of the Department of Narcotics Control.
The bench of Justice Md Ashraful Kamal and Justice Sardar Md Rashed Jahangir issued the stay order and ruling on Monday, after hearing the writ seeking to declare Ariful’s mobile court conviction illegal.
Advocate AM Aminuddin and Advocate Ishrat Hasan stood for the writ.
During the hearing, Advocate Ishrat said: “Ariful was sent to jail early on March 14, but his conviction was signed by the magistrate later in the day. How is this possible?”
The lawyer further questioned why the confession statement lists Ariful’s name and that of his father as the same, and does not mention the offences for which the journalist was convicted.
“Ariful’s address was tampered with in the documents. The mobile court punished Ariful for drinking liquor, but what about the marijuana they allegedly found at the scene? Everything in this mobile court has been tampered with. This mobile court did not carry out a single action without violating Ariful’s rights,” Advocate Ishrat said.
The court echoed the lawyer in saying that they found many discrepancies when looking through the documents on Ariful’s conviction.
State lawyer Deputy Attorney General Pratikar Chakma told the court: “None of us are above the law. Divisional inquiries are ongoing against the accused persons and other divisional action has also been taken.”
The writ petition was filed by Advocate Ishrat Hasan on behalf of online news portal Bangla Tribune's Executive Editor Harun-Ur-Rashid on March 15. On Monday, the High Court asked for Ariful to be made petitioner of the writ.
On March 16, the High Court asked for the submission of all documents related to the journalist’s conviction, and bail by the next hearing. On March 15, the court ordered the state to submit before it a copy of the conviction and one-year imprisonment sentence issued by the mobile court.
On March 14, Ariful, Kurigram district correspondent for Dhaka Tribune and Bangla Tribune, was sent to jail after a mobile court set up at the Kurigram DC's office ended the trial proceedings.
The mobile court in the dead of night jailed the journalist for a one-year sentence, after law enforcement led by magistrates picked him up from his home in Kurigram town.
The mobile court alleged that drugs and alcohol were recovered from the journalist’s possession. Ariful’s family described the claims as absurd.
On March 19, former Kurigram deputy commissioner Sultana Pervin, RDC Nazim Uddin, and others, were accused in a case filed with Kurigram Sadar police station for the attempted murder, questionable arrest, incarceration, and torture of journalist Ariful Islam.
According to the case statement, Sultana Pervin sanctioned an illegal mobile court drive against Ariful in order to stop him from writing reports on irregularities of the Kurigram district administration. Subsequently, Kurigram RDC Nazim Uddin, AC Rintu Biswas Chakma, and AC SM Rahatul Islam among 35/40 others broke into Ariful’s home and picked him up.
Ariful was then taken to the DC office, where he was tortured, blindfolded, and threatened with “an encounter”. He was then sent to jail for a year on charges of “possessing alcohol and marijuana”.
After making bail the next day, Ariful was taken to Kurigram Sadar Hospital, where doctors confirmed signs of physical assault.
Last Monday, three executive magistrates of Kurigram, including Senior Assistant Commissioner Nazim Uddin, were withdrawn, following the countrywide uproar sparked by the midnight mobile court drive that jailed Dhaka Tribune journalist Ariful Islam. Sultana Pervin was served a similar notice the night before.