Political crisis 2015 – Extra judicial killings

 by David Bergman

The word on the street in the last few days was that the law enforcement agencies were going to start to come down much harder on the opposition blockade and the resulting violence and killings.

The closing off of various communication services – commonly used by those who wanted to get around the possibility of surveillance by the government – was an indication that the government had a new strategy.

Two deaths of opposition activists, one yesterday and another today, both in Dhaka, in suspicious circumstances, suggests that one part of this new strategy seems to involve extra judicial killings. One should remember that in a two week period at the end of last year during the the pre-election period of political instability, 19 BNP activists were taken from their homes or public spaces in Dhaka by law enforcement officials and have since disappeared. Arguably, these killings have the same ultimate purpose as the disappearances – making it clear to opposition activists that they face death if they continue with the violent  protests.

Dhaka Tribune has done an excellent job on reporting on the killing in Dhaka of Imrul Kayes, a local Narail district Jamaat leader.

According to the Tribune:

“Police said he had been living in a mess near the Dakkhin Musuddi Government Primary School in the capital’s Wari area and was planning to carry out subversive activities in the city.

He was wanted by Narail police because he was allegedly involved with several incidents of violence after the BNP-Jamaat-led 20-party alliance’s non-stop blockade began on January 6. …

Deputy Commissioner Jahangir Hossain Matubbar from the Detective Branch (DB) of Police said Imrul had several arson and vandalism cases against his name in Narail; DB is now trying to find out more about those cases.

When contacted over phone, Narail sadar police station OC Sheikh Motiar Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that Imrul is wanted in a total of eight cases, all filed at different times after December 2013.

The paper reports the police’s version of what happened:

“We had information that a group of people were planning subversive activities from there [the mess] and a team of detectives went there,” and official said.

DC Jahangir Hossain Matubbar said the incident took place around 3am at AGB Colony kitchen market area in the capital’s Motijheel.

Sensing the presence of law enforcers, the group that had gathered there opened fire and detectives retaliated. At one stage, the criminals fled the spot leaving back injured Imrul. Police recovered one pistol, two bullets and five crude bombs from the spot, Jahangir said.

The OC also said three of those cases were filed very recently in connection with arson and vandalism after the blockade began; he was sued in a number of cases in 2012 as well.”

Imrul’s brother, Abdur Razzak, however told the Tribune a very different account of what happened:

“A group of people, who said they were from DB, came to Imrul’s mess in the early hours of Saturday and picked him up. At first they wanted to see his national ID card. After they confirmed his identity, they took him with them.

“On Saturday morning, Imrul’s roommate called up his wife’s mobile phone and told her that he had been taken away. Then we sent an acquaintance to the DB office in Dhaka. But DB denied knowing anything about the matter.

“Around 11am yesterday, someone called up Jannatul [Imrul’s wife] from Imrul’s mobile phone and told her that he was severely injured in an ‘accident’ and that he was being taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The caller did not say who he was.”

Clearly this needs further investigation, but it sounds so similar to so many previous stories about how the DB has operated in the past, where official detain someone and that person is either disappeared or killed in a ‘gunfight’ that Razzak’s accounts sounds very plausible.
It also appears to be supported, somewhat, by a source from the morgue who told the Dhaka Tribune:

“I think the shots were fired from a close range. That was why the bullets pierced his chest and went out through the back,” the source said.

The Daily Star has a similar, though less detailed, story on the killing.

Today, there has been another ‘gunfight’ in Dhaka involving the killing of Nuruzzaman Jony, a secretary of the BNP student wing in Kilgaon. The circumstances of this particular killing are not known.

Four days ago on 16 January, another BNP student activist in Chapainawaganj was also killed in a ‘gunfight’ in circumstances where the family claimed that he had been earlier detained by the police.