Saturday, October 1, 2016

Disappearances in last two years - list of men still missing

This page links to the '2016 disappearances' main page, which is here.

Below are the details of 19 people whose families claim a relative was picked up by law enforcement authorities in 2016 and they remain disappeared - that is to say they have not been released, shown arrested, or their dead bodies have not been found. The information below is based on media news reports, human rights organisations and in some cases direct interviews with families.

Please note that it is not uncommon for men, who have been picked up to subsequently be shown arrested after some time, so this is an ever-changing situation - and some of these men may be released or shown arrested.

Also please note that it is very likely that are more people who are disappeared - but whose cases have not been reported.


Abdullahil Amaan Azmi
Picked up on 22 August

According to his family, Azmi was picked up on 22 August from his family house in Mogh Bazaar in Dhaka. Azmi is the son of Ghulam Azam, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, who died in jail in 2014 after an earlier conviction for crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 independence war. Azmi was dismissed from the army in May 2009, five months after the Awami League government came to power.

Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem
Picked up on 9 August

According to his family, Quasem was picked up late at night on 9 August from his home in Mirpur in Dhaka. Ahmed is the son of Mir Quasem Ali, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, who was executed on September 4 (whilst his son remained disappeared) following conviction for crimes committed during the country's independence war,

Hummam Quader Chowdhury
Picked up on 4 August

According to his family he was picked up on the morning of 4 August when his car was stopped at a crossing close to Dhaka's District court. Chowdhury is the son of former opposition BNP leader whose father was executed in 2015 following conviction for crimes committed during the country's 1971 independence war.

Yasin Mohammad Abdus Samad Talukdar
Family claim picked up on 14 July

According to his family, Yasin Mohammad Abdus Samad Talukdar, who has no political affiliation, was picked up on 14 July from the DOHS Benani railway crossing in Dhaka by law enforcement authorities, whom local people thought were from Rapid Action Batallion.

Binchar Ali and Benjir Ali
Family claim picked up around 5 July

According to their mother, the two men were picked up from their house in Jhenhaida along with their father, former army sergeant Kawser Ali who is alleged to have owned the mess where Nibras Ali, one of the Holi restaurant attackers, is said to have lived. The father was shown arrested on 26 July, but the whereabouts of the two sons is not known.

Kamrul Islam Sikdar Musa
Family claim picked up on 22 June

His wife claims that on 22 June, a group of plainclothes policemen went to the house of a friend in the Kathgar area of Chittagong where she and her family were then staying and arrested her husband, a sand trader who also sells bricks, close to the house. The police say that they are still trying to arrest Musa who is suspected of involvement in the killing of the wife of a senior police officer.

Rashidun Nabi Bhuiyan Tipu
Family claim that picked up on 19 May

According to the family, Tipu was picked up on May 19 by men claiming to be from the detective branch of the police from his house at Betagaon in Nangolkot in Comilla.

Abu Sayeed (35)
Claimed that picked up on 11 May

Abu Sayeed, a garment worker is alleged to have been picked up by law enforcement officers from Gazipur on 11 May.

Bivas Sangma (25)
Family claim that picked up on 14 April

Sangma was a second year graduate student at Tinani Adarsha Degree College in Jhinaigati. His family members claim that sometime after 4:00 am on April 14, men who said that they were law enforcement officials, with some of them wearing RAB uniforms, came to their house and took Sangma away. He is related to Probhat Marak and Rajesh Marak who were picked up on the same day (see below)

Probhat Marak (60),
Family claim that picked up on 14 April

Family members claim that Marak, a day labourer, was picked up in by law enforcement officers from his home in Gajni village in Sherpur. He is related to  Bivas Sangma and Rajesh Marak who were also picked up on the same day (see above)

Rajesh Marak (22)
Family claim that picked up on 14 April

The family of Marak, a student at a private university in Dhaka, says that her brother was picked up, by men claiming to be members of law enforcement agency, from his elder sister’s house located near Bhaluka College in Mymensingh.

Nur-e-Alam (22)
Family claim that picked up on 12 April

The family of Alam, a 3rd-year student in the Chemistry department of Nilphamari Government College alleged on 12 April that plainclothes dressed men, who identified themselves as people from the administration, picked him up from his house.

Hadidul Islam (30), Johirul Islam (26), Ismail Hossain (32), Ibrahim Hossain (25), and Amir Hossain (22)
Families claim five men were picked up on 24 March

Family members claim that on 24 March, law enforcement officials, who said that they were from RAB (Rapid Action Battalion), picked up the five men from two villages in Bhaluka upazila. About 30 to 35 people arrived in a number of vehicles including two microbuses at Kashor Village and picked up Hadidul Islam,30, and his younger brother Johirul Islam, 26 and the same group then entered adjacent  Jamirdia Dubaliapara village and picked up Hadidul's brothers-in-law Ismail Hossain and Ibrahim Hossain, 25, and their staff member Amir Hossain, 22

Sheikh Mohammad Moyajjem Hossain Tapu (28)
Family claim picked up on 26 January

Tape was president of 22 Ward of student wing of the governing party the Awami League in Rampura in Dhaka and General Secretary of the student wing of Awami League of Rampura Police Station unit. His family claim that on January 26 at around 11.00 pm, men who identified themselves as DB police picked Tapu up from a flat in Bashundhara residential area, Dhaka.

Bangladesh's Enforced Disappearances 2016

An 'Enforced Disappearance' is defined in international law as an:
“arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State…followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty…which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
In Bangladesh, disappearances result in three different consequences:
  • those who are picked up, kept in secret detention, and then (a) released (b) formally 'arrested' and remanded in police or prison custody or (c) pushed into India;
  • those who are picked up and then killed;
  • those who are picked up and their whereabouts remain unknown (either dead, or remaining in secret detention).
This page and others linked to it provide information on the claims made in 2016 by families in Bangladesh that a relative has been picked up by the law enforcement authorities (where the authorities deny that this is the case) and one of the above possible consequences has occurred. It is updated until 20 September 2016

To read about those cases where the person was kept in secret detention and 
then shown arrested, click here.

Picked up in 2016 and then killed (the most recent, first) 

Below are 15 cases reported to the media and to human rights organisations where families have alleged that a relative has been picked by state agencies and - presumably whilst in the secret custody of law enforcement authorities - killed.

These can be divided into 9 of those where the police say that the men were in fact killed in a so called police 'gunfight' and 6 where the dead body, often with bullet wounds or with signs of torture, are found.

Out of these 15:
- 10 of the men were activists of the Islamist political party, the Jamaat-e-Islami or its student wing
- 1 of the men was a post holder in the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party
- 2 of the men were suspected of the murder of the wife of a police officer
- 1 man was suspected of being a militant
- 1 man is an alleged criminal

(Please note that there are other alleged extra-judicial killing, which do not involve a disappearance, which are not listed here)

Idris Ali, 60
Family say he was picked up on 4 August. Dead body found on 12 August

Idris was a teacher of Raghunathpur Hossain Ali Alim Madrassa and competed twice, as a Jamaat-e-Islami nominee in the Raghunathpur Union Parishad elections. His family claim that at about 8 pm on August 4 he was picked up by law enforcement officers as he was returning from his local bazaar on a motorbike. On 9 August, the family held a press conference. Early morning on August 12 the family heard from local people that Idris Ali’s body had been found in the Jorapukur area of Jhenaidah Police said that he had died in a road accident though Idris’s family has alleged that there were many marks of torture on his body.

Oliullah Molla, 40
Family say he was picked up on 9 July. Police say killed in gunfight on the following day

Molla, a supervisor at a garments factory in Dhaka was the General secretary of the Kashimari Union Bangladesh Nationalist Party in Shyamnagar upazila in Satkhira. According to his family, Molla was picked up by law enforcement officials whilst travelling on a bus travelling from Kaliganj in the district of Satkhira back to Dhaka on 9 July. The next thing the family heard was the police claiming that he had been killed in a gunfight near his home. According to the police, at 3.30 am on 10 July, a number of people were speeding through the area on bikes, but when the police asked them to pull over they started to throw bombs and shoot at the police. When the police retaliated, one of the attackers - who was found to be Molla - was found on the ground. According to the police, Mollah had a number of criminal cases lodged against him.

Faruk Hossain
Family say he was picked up on 1 July. Police say killed in gunfight following day. 

According to his wife, Mollah who worked as a farmer, was picked up at 11 am on the morning of 1 July by police officers whilst he was cleaning jute fibres in an area close to their home. Police deny this and claim he was a member of a gang of robbers who on the following morning were involved in a gunfight with the police as they tried to stop the gang committing a rover at Kanaitala on Rajarhat-Chuknagar Road in Jessore at around 2:30am.

Saiful Islam Mamun, 22
Family say he was picked up on 1 July. Police say killed in gunfight on 19 July.

Saiful, a final year student of Arabic literature department at the Islamic University, Kushtia, was also an activist of the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. His family claim that plainclothes police officers picked up Saiful from a student mess in Pabahati village in Jhenidah town on July 1. The police deny this and say that he was killed following a gunfight at around 3:00am, when a group of criminals hurled crude bombs at a police van which was patrolling on the Dhaka-Jhenidah highway near Madhupur-Aruakandi graveyard and Saiful was killed in the resulting "gunfight".

Nurul Islam (Rashed) 27 and Mohammad Nurunnabi (Nabi) 
Families say that they were picked up on 23 June. Police say killed in gunfight on 5 July

Both men, Rashed and Md Nabi were suspected by the police of involvement in the murder of a senior police officers' wife. According to Rashed's father his son and Nabi were picked up from a mutual friend's house in Chittagong on June 23. On 2 July, he held a press conference setting out what had happened. The police deny this and say that three days later, on 5 July, they received a tip that the two men were in a particular place and conducted an operation to find them at 3.30 am. The police said that when they reached near MBW Brick field, the two men opened fire on them forcing a gun battle which resulted in the two men being killed.

Ibnul Islam Parvej, 27
Family says he was picked up on 16 June. Police say he was killed in a gunfight on 2 July

Parvej was a former president of Jhenaidah district unit of the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. According to his father, on June 16 plainclothes law enforcement officers picked up his son from a house in the Mohammadpur area of Dhaka. The police deny this and say that at about 3 am on 2 July when they were patrolling near the Madhupur graveyard near Porahati village in Jhenaida district, some criminals opened fire on their vehicle, and the police returned fire triggering the "gunfight". Parvej was caught in the line of fire, the police say, and died on the spot.

Anisur Rahman, 28
Family says that he was picked up on 17 June. Police say he was killed in a gunfight on 1 July

Anisur was president of the Jamaat-e-Islami's student wing at Jhenidah Polytechnic Institute. His family claim that on 16 June Anisur was picked up by plain clothes law enforcement officers from a house in the Mohammadpur area of Dhaka. The police deny this and say that he was killed in a gunfight on 1 July (along with Shahid Al Mahmud, see below) when a police team was patrolling the Tatultala-Naldanga road and some criminals at about 3.30 hurled four or five bombs at the police vehicle and the police returned fire. The police say that they were suspects in the murder in May of the Hindu priest Ananda Gopal Ganguly

Shahid Al Mahmud, 25
Family say that he was picked up on 13 June. Police say he was killed in a gunfight on 1 July

Shahid was the president of Jamaat's student wing's Jhenidah Alia Madrasa unit. The family claim that on 13 June some plainclothes police detectives picked up Shahid from his home in Badanpur village in Jhenakdah district. The family held a press conference five days later concerning the  disappearance. The police deny any involvement in the pick up and say that the two men were killed in a gunfight on 1 July (along with Anisur Rahman, see above) when a police team was patrolling the Tatultala-Naldanga road and some criminals at about 3.30 hurled four or five bombs at the police vehicle and the police returned fire.

Sohanur Islam
Family say that he was picked up on April 10. Dead body found on April 20

Sohanur Islam, a student at Shaheed Nur-Ali College in Kaliganj, was an activist of the Jamaat-e-Islami. According to his family, on April 10 four law enforcement officials picked him from Ishwarba village in Kaliganj in Jhenaidah. Ten days later, on April 20, his bullet-ridden dead body was found at Pannatola field, Kharagoda upazila, Chuadanga Sadar.

Shamim Mahmud
Family say he was picked up on March 25. Dead body found on 13 April

Shamim Mahmud, a student of Sarkari Keshab Chandra College in Jhenakdah, was an activist of the Kaliganj Pourosova unit Jamaat-e-Islam student wing in Jhenakdah. His family claim that on March 25 at around 5.30 pm four plainclothes men, who identified themselves as being from the administration, picked up Shamim from a furniture shop near Mahtab Uddin Degree College situated close to the Jessore-Dhaka highway. A few days later the family held a press conference. On April 13, his dead body, with bullet wounds, was found near the Bahrampur cremation ground in Jessore Sadar upazila (along with the dead body of Abuzar Girafi, see below)

Abuzar Girafi
Family claim that he was picked up on March 18. His dead body was found on 13 April

Giraffe, a student, was president of the Kaliganj Pourosova unit Jamaat-e-Islam student wing in Jhenaidah. According to his family, on March 18, 2016 at around 2:00 pm, Abuzar Girafi, was picked up close to his house by four armed men claiming to be from the Detective Branch (DB) of Police, handcuffed and put on a motorcycle. He had been returning home from a mosque situated 400 yards away after having conducted Friday prayers. On April 13 his dead body, with bullet wounds, was found near the Bahrampur cremation ground in Jessore Sadar upazila (along with the dead body of Shamim Mahmud, see above) 

Sharif alias Saleh alias Arif (Mukul Rana)
Family say that he was picked up on 23 Feb. Police say he was killed in a gunfight on 19 June

Mukluk Rana's family say that four days after getting married he was picked up at about 11 am on 23 February from Bashundia intersection in Jessore by 10 to 12 people in a microbus as he was returning home to Satkhira from his in-law's house in Jessore along with his newlywed wife. The police deny this and say that they had received information about the presence of Mukul, who was suspected of involvement in the killing of the writer Avijit Roy, at Meradia in Dhaka and during the operation to arrest him, three people on a motorcycle sped away from the seance and opened fire on the police who responded. Mukuk died in the gunfight.

Mohammad Jasim Uddin (24)
Family say he was picked up on 12 Feb. His dead body was found on 2 March.

Uddin, a student at Jhenaidah Aliya Madrassa, was the Jamaat-e-Islami student wing president of Ganna union unit in the district. According to his family, on February 12, Uddin was returning home from Sylhet by bus when a group of men who identified themselves as members of the detective branch of the police picked him up. On March 2, 2016 local people found his dead body, with bullet wounds, in a field at Hingerpara village, Horinakundu upazila, Jhenaidah.

Abu Huraira (55)
Family say he was picked up on 24 Jan. His dead body was found on 29 Feb

Humaira, a teacher at the Kuthi Durgapur Madrassa, was a senior member of Jhenaidah Sadar upazila Jamaat-e-Islam. According to his family, on January 24, some men who identified themselves as being from the detective branch of the police picked Humaira up from the Madrassa where he worked. The police say that they found his dead body on February 29 on the Jessore-Jhenaidah road.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Kerry's visit to Bangladesh

Kerry at the house where Sheikh Mujib was murdered
The significance of the current trip to Bangladesh of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry remains unclear.

There is much talk about the visit seeking to strengthen the country's relationship, and no doubt there will be some announcements of increased cooperation.

It has been widely trailed that a key component of the visit will be discussions about counter-terrorism assistance. 

Whilst, it is important for the US government to find ways to assist Bangladesh to counter the continuing threat  of militancy - one would hope that the US government is cautious as to whether the Bangladesh government can be trusted to use any new tools provided to them without misusing them against the political opposition and without violating basic human rights

The issue of human rights is likely to be part of Kerry's message - which the Awami League government will not like. In a recent US state department fact sheet, it is stated that:
 "We believe the existence of viable political parties and ensuring freedom of media and speech are essential for Bangladesh to fulfill its true potential as a vibrant, secure democracy."
It is however unlikely that Kerry will voice any stronger public criticisms concerning the lack of democracy and the human rights situation in Bangladesh. The US needs the cooperation of the Bangladesh government - and public criticism does not go down well here.

Any concerns will be made in private meetings - though I would not be surprised if Kerry does not talk more publicly about about the need for increased freedom of expression. He is giving a speech today at the EMK centre, so it will be interesting to hear what he says.

However it has been announced that Kerry will visit Khaleda Zia, the leader of the opposition - though not the leader of the so-called parliamentary opposition - who may well soon be convicted for corruption. The very fact that he is meeting Zia, is significant; the visit is part of the public messaging of the US government's support for a multi-party democracy in Bangladesh.

If Kerry had not met Zia, this would really have put a further nail in the death of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The visit is a shot in the arm for the BNP, which is reeling from state repression and its own disorganisation and lack of focus.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The ten fictions of the ‘TerroristObserver’ website

When I made a film about 1971 war crimes, people alleged that I had taken money from the Awami League; when I wrote about the International Crimes Tribunal, it was alleged I was paid by the Jamaat-e-Islami; and when I wrote about the recent detention of the journalist Shafiqur Rahman, it was alleged that I had received money from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, from Tareq Rahman no less!.

Quite a clean sweep, some may argue.

Of course these were all total fictions - false and defamatory allegations which appear to be simply the price of writing on Bangladesh politics. In Bangladesh, when someone can’t attack the substance of the writing, they simply attack the person who wrote it.

Now there is a new allegation against me made by which makes further false, defamatory and unfounded allegations. It comes in response to this article that I wrote about the detentions of Hasnat Karim and Tahmid Khan, two men dining at the time of the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery.

The website was set up 7 July 2016, and the editor in chief is Riana Trina. According to her Facebook page, she studies or studied law at King College in London, works at the International Crimes Research Foundation, and is a presenter at Harbour Radio. I doubt that she has a career ahead of her in any profession requiring the determination of facts – though she may well have one in fiction and propaganda.

The allegations made by the website in an article widely shared on social media are total fiction – and I really mean fiction. They suggest that I have had meetings which I have never had, received money I never received, spoken to people I never spoke to, did things I never did and said things I never said.

There are at least ten major lies and falsehoods contained in this article, which are set out below

1. “Three days prior to the Gulshan attack, David Bergman and Mir Kashem’s son Arman held a meeting where a man named Nurul Islam was also present.”

This is total fiction. No such meeting took place. I was in London from the middle of June to the middle of July on a family holiday. I don’t know who this Nurul Islam is supposed to be.

2. “David Bergman was given 35 crore Taka to free Hasnat and Tahmid, and to do a campaign in the media.”

A total falsehood. Specifically, I never received any amount of money from any person who wanted me to do anything to ‘free Hasnat and Tahmid, and to do a campaign in the media’. The only money I ever receive for my writing are the professional fees from the publications who publish my writing.

3. ‘The majority of this amount was transferred to Bergman’s friend Samantha’s Natwest Bank account.’

I don’t have a friend called Samantha. And certainly no money (which in fact I was never given), was paid to any account of any person, yet along someone called Samantha.

4. “David Bergman was affiliated with Hasnat Reza Karim from a long period of time. We get the proof from the Twitter account of Hasnat Reza Karim, where he is following and sharing the writing of David Bergman.”

I never met Hasnat prior to the Holey attack, and so am in no way affiliated with him. My first and only interaction with him was at the magistrates court when he was remanded for the second time on  14 August (see below). I have 17,000 followers on Twitter; I am affiliated with only very few of them, and that does not include Hasnat Karim

5. “According to a source, in recent times David Bergman communicated with Arman, the son of Mir Kashem, and Hummam, the son of Saka Chowdhury. In that meeting they decided to take all the steps to do campaign on behalf of Hasnat and Tahmid, and to publish it in all the media in Bangladesh and abroad."

Pure fiction. No such meeting took place, and there was never any agreement of any kind made with these people or with anyone else to ‘campaign on behalf of Hasnat and Tahmid’. I have not met or spoken to Hummam for about two years, since well before the execution of his father.

6. ‘According to the source, Tahmid’s father also joined the meeting through Tele conference.‘

Since no such meeting took place, no one could communicate through Tele-conference. I have never met or spoken to Tahmid’s father.

7. “Our Investigation team tried to contact David Bergman a number of times, but his phone was switched off. He picked up his phone once and told our reporter in a snubbing tone that he will not say anything on this regard.”

I never received any calls, or miss calls, from this website and never spoke to anyone from this organisation, and never spoke to anyone about this subject.

8. ‘[At the magistrates court] David Bergman was seen to whisper something into the ears of Hasnat Karim, and as a reply Hasnat Karim shook his head.

I did not whisper to Karim. I asked him a question, ‘How are you being treated’? And he replied, ‘Things are fine’. At the same hearing, there were dozens of reporters inside and outside the court.

9. ‘He has been working really hard to stop the trials and to question the procedure of justice of the war criminals. … In the last six years, David Bergman has written more than 500 blogs against the tribunal.

Inaccurate. I have never written any article suggesting the stopping of the trials at the International Crimes Tribunal. Over 900 posts have been published on the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal blog, but almost all of them, 90 percent I would guess, are simply narrations of what happened at the Tribunal (see here for example). The rest are not ‘against the tribunal’ but are commentary about the tribunal.

10. “He is one of the leading persons to be involved in the skype scandal.”

I was never involved in this in any way.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The '$300 million plot?' - lies, damn lies and Bangladesh political parties

In Bangladesh politics, there is minimal - if any - respect for basic facts.

This is particularly evident by the way in which politicians and the media have written and talked about the United States case involving the conviction and sentencing of three men involved in a bribery plot to obtain confidential information from the FBI.

The Awami League's difficulty with the truth
On the Awami League side, we first had the basic misrepresentations made by Sajeeb Wazed, the son of the Bangladesh prime minister in his various Facebook posts. 

Second, we have the way in which pro-Awami Leaguers - and the media - have written about the case

Thirdly, most recently we have the prime minister herself. The Bangladesh Observer, reported the following:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday vowed to bring to justice those who conspired both at home and abroad to abduct and kill her son Sajeeb Wazed Joy in the USA.

"The conspiracy has been proved in the USA court," she told a civic rally arranged at Kotalipara Sheikh Lutfar Rahman Ideal Government College ground in the afternoon.

Referring to a USA court judgement, Hasina said an FBI official and a BNP leader have been sentenced to jail for their involvement in hatching a plot to abduct and kill Joy, also the PM’s ICT Affairs Adviser.
Assuming this to be an accurate news report, what the prime minister said was completely inaccurate; any claim that the US court had held or had ruled that there was a conspiracy to abduct and kill Joy is simply untrue.

The court convicted and sentenced the three men on bribery charges and there was never any charges relating to attempting to kidnap/hurt/kill any person. It is correct that the FBI had some evidence that Rizvi sought to kidnap and hurt Wazed, but the court, in the course of sentencing, ruled that it did not believe the evidence and dismissed it. It is also the case that the FBI did not present in the court any evidence that Shafiq Rahman or any other person was involved in any plan of Ahmed's to hurt Wazed.

If the prime minister wanted to use the US case to justify its investigation into the so-called 'plot to kill Joy', this is what she should have said - if at least she wanted to be accurate about the US case.
'A man in the United States pleaded guilty to bribing an FBI agent to obtain financial and other information about my son Sajeeb. During the investigation, the FBI found evidence that suggested that one of the reasons this man sought the information was to kidnap and harm him. The man was never prosecuted for this offence. Moreover the Judge during sentencing ruled that he did not believe that particular evidence. However, there was some evidence, and the Bangladesh government wants to look into this matter to see if there is any further evidence to support the claim that Ahmed planned to hurt my son, and see whether other people were involved.' 
However, it is my calculation that the reason why the Awami League leaders have to misrepresent and misconstrue the US case so much is because they have no further evidence to support its claim of a plot to kill the prime minister's son

The BNP's difficulty with the truth.
But of course it is not just the Awami League. The BNP have now got into the act.

On Sunday, May day, Khaleda Zia , the leader of the BNP, is reported to have said:
“The [US] case files say there is $300 million, which is equal to Tk 25 billion, in an account of the prime minister’s son. 
Where did this money come from? What is the source of this money? ... 
The court had its suspicion over $300 million or Tk 25 billion in his (Joy’s) account. The FBI found the money in investigation.

If you do not release [Shafik Rehman and Mahmudur Rahman], if you are the true prime minister of the people, then your son Joy needs o be questioned in custody about where he got this $300 million or Tk 25 billion.”

“Is this money legal?” 
Well, the case files do not state that there is '$300 million' in the 'account of the prime minister's son'.

The case records only say that there was an FBI memorandum relating to Sajeeb Wazed in which the words '$300 million' were written. It does not say anything more than that. Whilst it is possible that Khaleda is right that the document states that this money is in Wazed's account, it is much more likely not to be the case.

The reason for this is that  had Wazed's accounts really contained this amount of money, the US authorities would surely have taken action against him. Moreover, if is was written in the FBI memorandum that Wazed has this money in the bank, Shafik Rehman would immediately have published it - since this clearly would be sensational news.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

'Plot to kill Joy' - The article that refused to publish

Toufique Khalidi, Editor in Chief
Yesterday, I was told that had refused to publish an op-ed on the the alleged 'plot to kill' the prime minister's son.

My article was written in response to the news website's own op-ed which had criticised my article written for The Wire, as being 'selective’, ‘misleading’ and ‘confusing’.

'Dear David,' the rejection e-mail stated. 'The editorial board has decided to not carry your piece. We hope you will continue writing for us in the future'. No reason was given.

When I submitted the article on Monday I had every expectation it would be published. Bdnews had previously carried another article critical of me - does it seem this is becoming a bit of a habit? - and it published my rejoinder, no questions asked. However, this time, I was told on Tuesday that 'The editorial board is in the process of deciding whether to publish your rebuttal.' I then responded by saying that I was happy to remove the last paragraph as I thought perhaps 'the editorial board' would find it untoward. This morning I heard that website would not carry the piece at all.

So here it is - in full (including the last para). In a separate post I will write why bdnews24 might have refused to publish it -but would be interested to hear any of your ideas why this might be the case.


Omission and conjecture: A response to Shah Ali Farhad

David Bergman

It takes quite some nerve to write an article about the sentencing of Rizve Ahmed and two other men for bribery offences in the United States and fail to mention the most relevant part of the judge’s ruling - and then to go on to claim that my article is ‘selective’ and its title ‘misleading’ and ‘confusing’.

But that is what Shah Ali Farhad - Assistant Secretary (Central Sub Committee) of Bangladesh Awami League who is employed at a pro-Awami League research organization – has managed to do in his recent article.

Lets start with Farhad’s problems with the title of my article in The Wire, ‘US Court Dismissed Claim of Plot to Injure Bangladesh PM Son.’

Farhad argues that the title ‘tends to denote that a “claim” was made in court about the plot to abduct and kill Sajeeb Wazed by the US government which was then dismissed by the US federal court,’ which he claims did not happen.

Well that in effect is exactly what happened.

As part of its written submission to the court seeking sentencing enhancements, the Department of Justice argued that one of Rizve Ahmed’s objectives in seeking the documents was to physically harm Wazed, and it set out its evidence in support of that claim. (It should be noted that the Department of Justice never claimed at any point in its submission that there was an intention ‘to kill’).

During the hearing the Judge Vincent L. Briccetti considered this evidence and then explained why he thought that it did not support the conclusion claimed by the Department of Justice. (To see the detail of the Department of Justice evidence and the court’s view on it, read ‘Evidential Chasm: The Case Against Journalists Accused of Plotting to Kill Bangladesh PM’s Son’ also published in the The Wire.)

The Judge said, ‘I don't believe that there's sufficient evidence that [Ahmed] really did seek to kidnap and physically harm [Wazed]’.

He also said that on the basis of all ‘the the text messages and the other things that I've seen,’ it was his view that Ahmed’s seeking the confidential FBI information was not about causing Wazed any physical harm but ‘about furthering Ahmed's political aims, getting confidential information to expose what Ahmed apparently thought was corrupt behavior by the ruling party and otherwise embarrass [Wazed].’

Indeed, according to Department of Justice’s submission, the key information obtained from the FBI was, and I quote, “an internal memorandum (the ‘FBI Memo’) that referred to Individual 1 and a sum of $300 million, and a confidential report, known as a Suspicious Activity Report (the ‘SAR’) that also referred to Individual 1.” Individual 1 refers to Wazed.

In his article, Farhad does not refer to or quote a word from the reasons given by the Judge for believing that the evidence was not sufficient to support the Department of Justice’s conclusions. Nor does he quote anything from court’s ruling on this matter.

Since, in relation to the Bangladesh authority’s claim about a ‘plot to kill’, this is the single most relevant part of the sentencing judgment, his failure to do so is bizarre, to say the very least.

Farhad is entitled to disagree with the Judge’s ruling. Indeed, he could well have written an article setting out why he thought the judge was wrong in coming to his conclusions (though interestingly he did not).

However, Farhad is not entitled to set out the ‘evidence’ in one long section of his article, and then seek to pretend to his readers that the US district judge made no negative ruling about it.

Having totally ignored the judgment of the District Court judge, near the end of his article, Farhad then writes the following passage, ‘There should remain no credible doubt as to whether or not there was any cross-border conspiracy to obtaining confidential information on Sajeeb Wazed with the aim of abducting and harming/killing him in the US in light of the information already available in the public domain.’

How he comes to that conclusion - with ‘no credible doubt’, no less - I don’t know.

If we put to one side the US Judge’s comments about the evidence, there remains a huge chasm between the evidence that is currently in the public domain – concerning Ahmed’s criminal purchase of the FBI information, his sale of that information to a journalist (possibly Shafik Rehman), the meeting between the corrupt FBI officer and some Bangladesh associates, and some evidence that Ahmed sought to use the information to harm Wazed – and the claim that there is a ‘cross-border conspiracy’ with ‘the aim of abducting and harming/killing [Wazed] in the US’?

The US Department of Justice may well have further evidence that is not in the public domain which closes this evidential chasm – but at the moment on the basis of evidence in the public domain to make such a conclusion is, one has to say, politically motivated conjecture.

I would suggest that Farhad give up his day job at his Awami League think tank, and look into opportunities with the Bangladesh police, where – with his abilities in analyzing court records and assessing evidence – I am sure he will make a perfect fit.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A response to bdpanorama - should one laugh, cry, sue or what?

What does one do when a news website in Bangladesh publishes total defamatory rubbish about you and your family - and then gets 13,000 Facebook shares?

Well, a website called bdpanorama has done exactly that. It has published an article, which roughly translates as this:
"Panorama report: After the arrest of BNP chairperson's adviser Shafik Rehman .... journalist David Bergman yesterday met and did a financial deal with Tareq Rahman at London. The meeting took place at April 19 at a restaurant in central London. The middleman of the meeting was a close friend of [his wife], whose name starts with M. Tareq's human right adviser barrister MA Sayem was also present in the meeting. Sources said the agenda of the meeting was to ensure that Safik's arrest was presented in a negative manner and against Awami League in the international media. Initially, they have a 50,000 pound agreement. an official of Sayem's law firm disclosed these information to the Panorama. We will keep you informed on this when we have more information.'
So, on April 19th - and indeed on every day since the middle of January 2016 - I have been living in Dhaka, and have not left the country. So unless I can distort the laws of physics I certainly was not at the meeting on April 19th. My wife was also in Dhaka on that day, and also has not been to London for some months.

I don't know and have certainly never met MA Sayem. And of course I have never received any money from the BNP or any other political party or any individuals connected to a political party

All my journalism is done completely independently. I only ever receive professional fees for my articles from the newspaper or website for whom I write, and from no other person or entity. That also goes for what I write in my blog - though of course no-one pays me for that!

So, it would be wonderful to know who are bdpanorama's 'sources'.

More likely of course no source ever existed, a figment of the website's imagination - and someone decided just to make it up. They saw a recent article I wrote on the background to Shafik Rehman's arrest, did not like it, could not refute it any way since it was entirely fact-based, and decided to try and discredit me with these nasty lies.

Of course, this unfortunately is nothing new, and is something I have written about in the past in the context of my work on the International Crimes Tribunal

And a note to all media. Anyone who repeats these false claims published by bdpanoram are repeating the defamation.

Very sad.

The so-called 'plot to kill Joy' - This is what we know

Yesterday, the Indian news website The Wire published an article on the so-called plot 'to kill' Sajeeb Wazed, the son of the prime minister of Bangladesh. A follow up article was also published. These are the two articles if you are interested in the detail about this 'alleged plot'.

Below are the key point that emerge from these two articles - along with a consideration of the Bangadesh request for legal assistance and the US Government response

This sets out the following*:
  • the two journalists Shafik Rehman and Mahmudur Rahman have been arrested on the basis of information related to a case in the United States. This is clear from the GD and the First Information Report as well as statements by Sajeeb Wazed, the son of the prime minister
  • this 'US case' involved a trial of three men, one a Bangladeshi-American Rizve Ahmed, involving the payment of money to an FBI agent in exchange for confidential information contained in FBI databases about Sajeeb Wazed. The three men pleaded guilty in 2015 to committing bribery and they are all in jail.
  • the three men were never charged with any offence relating to threatening or attempting or planning harm against any person.
  • this case is not one concerning a 'plot to kill Sajeeb' or to harm. It was a case concerned with the illegal procurement of FBI information.
  • the prosecutors never claimed in court that there was any plot 'to kill' Sajeeb
  • prior to sentencing, however, the US prosecutors did claim that one of the Rizve Ahmed's purposes in obtaining the FBI information was to 'kidnap' and 'harm' Sajeeb. According to the case documents, the prosecutors based this on:
    • a voluntary interview with investigating agents in which Ahmed "admitted that he provided the private investigator $4,000, and that he requested the private investigator’s help regarding a plan to “scare,” “kidnap,” and “hurt” Individual 1.” It should be noted that this private investigator, referred to as Steve, was not one of the three men involved in the bribery scheme, but a separate person who Ahmed contacted around January 2012 to obtain information about Wazed.
    • confirmation by the private investigator that Ahmed had told him that he ‘wanted his help regarding a plan to scare and hurt Individual 1’
    • a text message from the corrupt FBI agent, Robert Lustyik to his friend Johannes Thaler, both of whom were convicted along with Ahmed, which was sent when the two men thought Ahmed was reneging on their financial deal. The text stated: ‘Tell [Ahmed], I’ve got [Individual 1’s] number and I’m pissed. . . I will put a wire on n get them to admit they want [a Bangladeshi political figure] offed n we sell it to [Individual 1].’ The assumption, here, is that ‘offed’ means 'killed'.
  • in the course of the sentencing hearing, the court rejected this claim. 'I just don’t feel there’s enough evidence that’s been presented to me for me to make that finding,' the judge said. '“This case is all about furthering Ahmed’s political aims, getting confidential information to expose what Ahmed apparently thought was corrupt behavior by the ruling party and otherwise embarrass [Sajeeb Wazed].
  • the court documents show that Rizve Ahmed gave some of the confidential FBI documents, which he had obtained, to three men - one of whom was referred to a 'Bangladeshi journalist'
  • the court documents show that the prosecutors don't make any other further claim about the Bangladeshi journalist - other than he received these documents
  • the court documents also show that Rizve Ahmed organised a meeting at his house with his two co-conspirators (the FBI agent, and Thaler), a Bangladesh journalist, Rizve's father and another man. The prosecutors say that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the collection of more confidential documents from the FBI about Sajeeb.
  • the court documents show that the prosecutors don't make any other claim about this meeting other than that its purpose was to discuss the illegal procurement of FBI documents.
It is important to keep in mind that the information we have is limited to what is contained in publicly accessible documents relating to the US case - in particular, the indictment, the government sentencing memorandum, and a transcript of the sentencing decisions.

There could be other information that the Department of Justice and the FBI have about what Ahmed and other people's conduct that is not in the public domain.

In this context, what can we say about the most recent claim made by the Press Trust of India contained in an article which states: 
The United States provided assistance to Bangladesh in its investigation that unearthed the plot to abduct and kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son in the US, a senior American official has said, a day after the police claimed to have uncovered the conspiracy. 
“The United States Department of Justice responded to the Government of Bangladesh’s request for legal assistance related to this case,” the official told PTI.
Two things seem to be be conflated here (a) the Bangladesh government's investigation into a so-called plot to 'kill' Wazed; and (b) legal assistance that the department of justice looks to have given the Bangladesh government concerning the Department of Justice's investigation into the US bribery case. For example, the Department of Justice could have provided the names of the three men who received FBI information from Rizvi Ahmed, and three associates of Rizvi Ahmed who met with the FBI agent.

It is the Bangladesh government which is suggesting that these men are all involved in a plot to kill Wazed, not - as far as one can judge from the US court records - the US department of justice.

*Errors in the spelling of names have been corrected. It has also been re-edited in light of further information published in the second TheWire article.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The need for nuanced history about 1971

Syed Badrul Hasan has written an article for criticising an oped I wrote  concerning the proposed new law crimanalising people who 'distort' 1971's history.

I have written a response which bdnews has also published, but without internal links. So here is the article with links to support assertions in the article.

The need for nuanced history 
David Bergman

On this website, a few days ago, Syed Badrul Ahsan roundly criticised my op-ed published in the New York Times where I had argued that proposed legislation criminalising people who ‘distort the history of the 1971 war’ was so broadly drafted that it would significantly hinder free speech and stifle legitimate historical research.

‘We will not accept any questioning of the facts related to the War of Liberation,’ Badrul stated in his article where he went onto refer to his ‘absolute unwillingness to allow our history to be questioned.’ He concluded by saying that ‘The Liberation War Denial Crimes Act ought to have been in place a very long time ago.’

In seeking to substantiate his conclusions, Badrul however makes a number of factual inaccuracies, as well as misrepresenting arguments of those like me who are critical of the introduction of the Act.

His first inaccuracy – which also happens to be defamatory – is his attempt to compare me to David Irving.

Badrul states that Irving’s ‘questioning the figures for the holocaust’ – something for which he claims Irving was imprisoned for in Austria - is similar to my ‘rais[ing] issues around the figures of the genocide in Bangladesh.’

It is not correct, however, that Irving was imprisoned for ‘questioning the figures for the holocaust’.

He was punished for denying the use of gas chambers in concentration camps, (a ‘fairy tale’, Irving said’) and also for his claims that Adolf Hitler had helped Europe's Jews and that the Holocaust was a "myth".

This would be like Irving saying about Bangladesh’s 1971 war of Independence that during the war ‘no Bengalis collaborated with the Pakistan military’, that ‘Lieutenant General Niazi had protected the Hindu community from any risk of being killed’ and that ‘no civilians were killed during the 9 month war’.

These would be, if stated by anyone, entirely bogus and false statements which would clearly fall into the category of genocide denial.

But I have never written anything at all similar about the 1971 war.

Lets just look at the New York Times piece. ‘Depending on the source, some 300,000 to three million people were killed, and millions were displaced’ during the war, the article states. It then goes on: “There is no question that there were many atrocities, including rape, deportation and massacres of civilians, carried out by the Pakistani Army, aided at times by pro-Pakistani militias. Some of these included members of the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party that remains a powerful force in Bangladesh today. There is an academic consensus that this campaign of violence, particularly against the Hindu population, was a genocide.”

And this paragraph – which one should note states categorically that the killings amounted to genocide - is reflected in all my writings about the 1971 war

Badrul should acknowledge that there could not be a bigger difference between what David Irving has written about the holocaust and what I have written about the 1971 war.

Secondly, Badrul is wrong to suggest that holocaust denial laws ‘have never been an impediment to freedom of speech.’

In fact, they are hotly contested in Europe and criticized both by historians, and freedom of speech advocates.

But, more significantly, Badrul’s is widely of the mark in his attempt to justify the new proposed Bangladesh law by pointing to the ‘holocaust denial laws’.

The Bangladesh law is titled ‘Bangladesh Liberation War (Denial, Distortion, Opposition) Crime Law’ and its offences are far wider than just criminalizing people who deny the Pakistan army atrocities of the 1971 war or who voice support for the crimes that took place (which would put them on a par with the European laws.)

Instead, the proposed legislation allows for the prosecution of anybody who ‘denies …any events for the preparation of the liberation war’ between 14 August 1947 to 16 December 1971, anyone who ‘misrepresents’ any government publication on the history of the war, or any person who represents the liberation war history ‘inaccurately or with half truth’.

These offences – which would seem to allow for the prosecution of any person who disagrees with any aspect of the ‘government-at-the-time’s’ official version of the 1971 war and the preparatory events towards it – are far wider than any offences contained in the European holocaust denial laws.

Badrul is also wrong to suggest that the holocaust denial laws put the ‘Holocaust beyond debate’. Everything about it, apart from the fact that it happened, is contested and researched.

There continues to be much new history written about the holocaust. As mentioned in a recent New York Times review of a book on the holocaust, ‘More than 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no sign of research on it abating. Instead, over the past few decades, historians have been extending their inquiries … So voluminous is this scholarly outpouring that few are able to keep up with it.’ And the research is about every element of the holocaust.

Much of the rest of Badrul’s article concerns his claim that there is an attempt to in Bangladesh to shape a ‘new narrative’ on the 1971 war.

Perhaps there are people seeking to do that, but journalists and researchers like myself are certainly not part of any such initiative. All that we are interested in doing is being able to articulate a more nuanced view of the 1971 war – and indeed of current political life in Bangladesh - which does not simply ignore research just because it happens to be inconvenient for one reason or the other. As the Guardian newspaper aptly put it: “Mature countries should be ready to interrogate their own history, and accept there are diverse interpretations of how they came to be.”

It is a terrible shame that Syed Badrul Ahsan seems to be set very much against that.

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Bangladesh's deeply politicised, dysfunctional criminal justice system"

The International Crisis Group has published a new report on Bangladesh (which I have written briefly about here) and whilst I don't agree with every word, it has crafted a rather masterly executive summary which accurately reflects the way the law enforcement authorities and the criminal justice system has been used/abused by the current government against its political opponents. The Executive Summary is set out below. The full report is also really worth a read.

"As the Awami League (AL) government’s political rivalry with the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) reaches new heights, so has its repression. At the same time, a deeply politicised, dysfunctional criminal justice system is undermining rather than buttressing the rule of law. Heavy-handed measures are denting the government’s legitimacy and, by provoking violent counter-responses, benefitting violent party wings and extremist groups alike. The government needs to recognise that it is in its interest to change course, lest it fail to either contain violent extremism or counter political threats. A key part of a more prudent course would be to depoliticise and strengthen all aspects of the criminal justice system, including the judiciary, so it can address the country’s myriad law and order challenges and help stall a democratic collapse.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bangladesh Liberation War (Denial, Distortion, Opposition) Crime Law’

Last week, a New York Times oped criticised the breadth of the Bangladesh Law Commission's proposed new law, now titled, ‘Bangladesh Liberation War (Denial, Distortion, Opposition) Crime Law’ - often referred in short as the 'Liberation War Denial Crimes Act'.

This post provides a translation of the key sections of the proposed legislation. This text is almost identical to the text that was put out for expert consultation, and which was the basis of the NYT oped

As one can see, the offences are very broad and go way beyond 'denying' genocide or showing support for crimes committed during the war - which are the kind of offences found in the European 'holocaust denial' offences.

Section 4(2) sets out the offences - and is the crucial section.
"Any denial of the following subject in any media of any nature or in any manner will be considered as offence of distortion of the history of liberation war and will be considered as a crime 
(a) denying events that were for the preperation of the liberation war betwen 14 August 1947 to 28 Feb 1971 
(b) denying events that were for the preperation of the liberation war between 1 March 1971 to 25 March 1971 
(c) denying events that were for the preperation of the liberation war bweteen 26 March 1971 to 16 December 1971 
(d) Giving a malicious statement in any local or foreign media that undermines any events related to the liberation war 
(e) Misrepresentation or devaluation of any government publication, so far published, on the history of the liberation war; 
(f) Representing the liberation war history inaccurately or with half truth in the text books or in any other medium 
(g) Trivialising any information related to the martyrs, female war heroines, the killing of civilians, arson, rape and looting 
(h) Mocking any events, information or data about the liberation war 
(i) Committing contempt of the liberation war by calling the liberation war anything other than a historic fight for the nation’s independence

(j) showing justification for or publicising support for various criminal activities conducted by the Pakistan army in 1971 and Al Badr, Razaker, Al Shams and members of the Peace Committees As the Auxillary forces of the Pakistan army. 
(k) Showing support to the crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, genocide and other war crimes or calling into question or carrying out false propaganda about the trials that deals with these crimes."
Section 4(2) states that
"Any supporting activities of any kinds of activities mentioned in subsection (1) will also be considered a crimes under this law."
Section 5(1) states that the sentence for committing an offence under section 4 is from 3 months to five years imprisonment as well as a fine of upto Tk 1 crore.

Section 5(2) states that if anyone convicted for the crimes mentioned in section 4 repeats these crimes again, 'he will face double the punishment for what he received in the first offence' and that if someone is convicted for more than one crime at a time 'then punishment will be carried out in a consecutive manner.'

Section 6(1) states that anyone who provides any assistance or conspires to commit an offence he will face the same punishment as the principal offender

Section 7 sets out the procedure. It states that anyone can file a case in a police station or in a local court. If the case is filed in court, before taking the case, the court will analyse the allegation and question the alleged person and conduct the investigation as they consider appropriate. The trial will be conducted under the code of criminal procedure. The government can appoint one or more special prosecutor to conduct the prosecution.

Section 12 states that that the law applies to any Bangladeshi citizen who commits this offence outside Bangladesh.

Friday, April 8, 2016

ICIJ 2013 leak database

There are some misleading reports in the Bangladesh media (like this one) that suggest that Bangladeshis have been named in 'The Panama papers'

As of now, that is not the case. 

The only names of Bangladeshi politicians and businessman linked to offshore companies that have been released by the ICIJ consortium relate to an earlier 2013 leak of information involving the British Virgin Islands. 

However, ICIJ have created a public database of some of that 2013 leaked information which also can be accessed here.

Just search for Bangladesh, and you will get quite a lot of information, though no corroborative documents.

It should be emphasised that none of the information in this database relates to the Panama Papers - only to the 2013 leak. It is not new.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Top AL family set up offshore company network

One of the big international news stories right now is the leak of information concerning the establishment of off-shore companies by politicians and businessmen around the world involving the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

Just over two years ago, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists were also involved in another leak of information about offshore companies in the British virgin islands.

Whilst the connections of Bangladeshi politicians and businessmen to the offshore companies identified from the most recent leak of the Panama law firm papers are not yet known, here are the stories published just over two years ago in The New Age about the offshore companies set up by Bangladesh politicians and businessmen in the British virgin islands

Below is the main  article, first published in New Age on 12 July 2013 concerning a network of off-shore accounts set up Kazi Zafrullah - a member of the Awami League's 12 member presidium and also relative of the prime minister by marriage.

Bangladeshi businessmen's link to offshore companies revealed

This article was originally published on 14 July 2013 in The New Age, and is part of a series on offshore companies set up by Bangladeshi businessmen and politicians. (The original link is not working)

Local businessmen’s link to offshore companies revealed 
David Bergman 
The directors of some of Bangladesh’s biggest business conglomerates, including Summit, Square, and the United group, own or have owned offshore companies in the secretive tax haven of the British Virgin Islands, New Age can reveal.
Information about their offshore company ownership is contained amongst the 2.5 million electronic files which were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – and which have been shared with New Age.
The files contain information from the databases of two offshore company service firms including Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet which was the firm that these businessman paid to set up their companies.
From the ICIJ files, New Age has identified a total of over 20 Bangladeshi business people who have owned an offshore company, though there may be many more who have registered using a non-Bangladesh address or who set up offshore companies using different service agencies.

Legality of offshore companies, bank accounts

This article was originally published on 12 July 2013 in The New Age, and is part of a series on offshore companies set up by Bangladeshi businessmen and politicians in the British Virgin Islands (The link to the article on the New Age website is not working)


Legality of offshore companies, bank accounts

David Bergman

The legal foundation for the rules relating to how Bangladesh residents can remove money from the country for personal or business use is set out in the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1947.
Section 5 of the Act sets out a blanket restriction on residents from making payments to people resident outside Bangladesh – though the same section allows Bangladesh Bank to make both ‘general or special’ exemptions to this rule.