Friday, August 21, 2015

RAB and the British blogger-killer arrest

The FIR lodged with
the police three months
On Tuesday, Bangladesh's supposedly elite counter-terrorist organization, the  Rapid Action Battalion organized a press conference to announce the arrest of three men, one of whom was a British citizen. At the press conference they claimed that the three had been arrested late the previous night or early that morning, and had confessed to membership of the militant organization, Ansarullah Bangla Team and to the killing of two of the four bloggers killed this year in Bangladesh.

The story the police gave about the arrest was quite detailed. One of the men was arrested on Monday evening, and he gave information that led onto the arrest of the other two men, including the British citizen Towhidul Rahman, outside Star Kebab in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

It has now come to light that the police story about his detention on early Tuesday morning is not likely to be true.

As reported in Al Jazeera, the security guard and the caretaker of the building in which Tawhidul Rahman lived confirm that he was picked up on 28 May 2015, three months earlier, by people who introduced themselves as people from the 'administration/detective branch'. Moreover, later that day, the sister filed a 'general diary' (known here as a GD, and is the means by which the public provide the police with information about a crime or possible crime)with the police station informing them of her brother's 'arrest' by 'DB officers', and five days later filed a First Information Report - known here as an FIR, which is the way in which a criminal case starts) with similar information.

It should also be noted, as reported by the Daily Star, the sister met up with the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission claiming that her brother was taken by law enforcement agencies.

RAB is of course denying the possibility that he was arrested earlier and suggest - as they always do when similar allegations are made - that the 'criminals' are making up stories or conspired a fake disappearance blaming law enforcement authorities.

The fact that Towhidul Rahman (along with the two other men, who make similar allegations) was apparently illegally detained for three months by the Bangladesh law enforcement authorities does not necessarily mean that he was not involved in the crimes alleged by RAB, but it certainly significantly dents the credibility of their allegation. (As previously reported in this blog and elsewhere there is significant other evidence that RAB is involved in disappearances, along with other law enforcement agencies, which they also categorically deny) 

Here is draft translation of the text of the FIR that was lodged with the police station on 3 June, five days after Towhidul was apparently picked up. (The address and another personal details are not included). The GD which was filed on 28 May is shorter but makes the same claim, though it does say that a computer and other items were taken.)

You can download a copy of the original GD and FIR here.

Dhanmondi Model Police Station
DMP, Dhaka
Sub: FIR 
With due respect, I, Dr UH Nasera Begum, 57, father Abu [ not clear] Rahman, address Flat XXX, House no XX, Road no 9/A Dhanmondi hereby inform you, my younger brother Md Tawhidur Rahman @ Gama, 55, has been living in London for 25 years and obtained the citizenship in London. Sometimes he visited Bangladesh to meet our brother, sister and mother. My brother Tawhidur Rahman @ Gama arrived to Bangladesh in May 2013, after our mother fell seriously sick suddenly. And, he stayed here to look after our mother. He is unmarried, unemployed and regularly says prayers. He is suffering from bipolar disorder and now under regular treatment. On last May 28, 2015, four people reached the address I mentioned when my mother and brother were staying  at about 13:40pm. When the security guards asked for their identities, they introduced themselves as Detective Branch police, intruded into the house and took away my brother after arresting him. My mother had informed me about the incident over phone when he was being taken. I talked to them over the phone [with my mother’s phone] and wanted to know their identities but they hanged up the call. After I had reached our house, came to know the incident and went to Dhanmondi police station, and filed a general diary no with the Dhanmondi police station on May 28. 2015. But, the whereabouts of my brother remains unknown. I suspect four people who introducing themselves as DB police in connivance of each other abducted my brother between 1:40pm and 1:46pm and confined him illegally. It is late as we have discussed with our family members and relatives.
There, we pray and hope a case would be filed.
Dr UH Nasera Begum
As the Al Jazeera article mentions, these kinds of illegal detentions - in effect, 'temporary disappearances' - are not uncommon in Bangladesh these days. The other most recent British citizen who was detained for similar 'jihadist' activity was similarly picked up a week before the police claimed.

There is only one discrepancy in the family/eye-witness story. In their letter to the British High Commision, written on the same day as the FIR on 3 June, the family does not provide exactly the same story as set out in the GD, FIR and in their conversations with the National Human Rights Commission.

The letter to the British High Commission states that:
"My elder brother wanted to know their identity and whether they are from the government or had any warrant document, they replied nothing rather forced him to get out of home."
However, according to the caretaker Tawhidul Rahman told him over the intercom  that they were from the 'administration/DB', which is the allegation made in the GD and FIR etc.

This discrepancy may be explained that they did not want to make to the British government, a direct allegation against the Bangladesh government law enforcing authorities.

However, it is a discrepancy.

It should be noted however, that according to the family, the British High Commission were given a copy of the GD and the FIR, so that they would have known that the family had made a claim that the law enforcing authorities were involved.

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