by David Bergman
|Samiun Rahman, outside court in Dhaka|
It is difficult to judge the credibility of the allegation made by Bangladesh detective branch officers – that Samiun Rahman is a jihadist recruiter who came to Bangladesh to recruit fighters for ISIL.
For me, his arrest is interesting for two reasons.
The first, is about how it reflects the Awami League government’s intention to represent itself internationally as an ally of the United States and its allies in the new war against Islamic terrorism. The timing of the arrest – right in the middle of the UN general assembly – could not have been more helpful.
The second and more significant reason why Rahman’s arrest is important, is that this case provides further evidence of how the police are running something akin to a parallel system of justice – in which a small but significant number of people are detained and then either ‘disappeared’ (Odhikar statistics suggest that family members or witnesses identified detective branch officers involved in 20 out of the 74 disappearances since January 2013) or alternatively brought to the court at a later date at the convenience of the investigators and their political masters.
This is the parallel system of justice operated by the police for a certain category of people.
The police say that they raided Rahman’s village house in Habiganj, but did not find him there, and that he was finally arrested when getting off a train from Sylhet that arrived late on Sunday evening, the 28th September.
‘They arrested me five days ago without any charge. Left me in a cell for five days. Yesterday, they take me out of the cell to a train station. Two officers beside me, another two were way forward. They take me forward and then say, ‘yes I have got him. I have got him’’
No police-officer shall detain in custody a person arrested without warrant for a longer period than under all the circumstances of the case is reasonable, and such period shall not, in the absence of a special order of a Magistrate under section 167, exceed twenty-four hours exclusive of the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the Magistrate’s Court.
For the police to hold a person for more than 24 hours is illegal.
So did the police hold Rahman for five days before bringing him to court? On this point, I tend to believe the accused for the following reasons.
For the purposes of this Convention, “enforced disappearance” is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.
An interesting question of course is what interest do the police have in detaining someone outside of the court’s jurisdiction. Possible reasons for this are:
– the police are asked to detain someone for political reasons and the police are waiting to hear what they should do;
– it allows the police to take other investigative action (perhaps detaining others) without drawing attention to the arrest of the person which could otherwise create difficulties.
– provides the police time to find out information that they need – though interrogation and torture – without any pressure of time or external scrutiny.
In the case of Rahman, who was treated well, and where (at least according to him) he was not interrogated, his apparent illegal detention may well have been about simply creating a convenient time politically (during the UN general assembly) to present his arrest to journalists. There may be some other reason, however.
A couple of other matters