by David Bergman
1. A pattern of behavior
The government’s law enforcement authorities have picked up and disappeared many other BNP leaders and activists in recent years – in particular 19 activists who were taken in a single two week period in Dhaka just before the January 2014 elections where substantial evidence exists that law enforcement authorizing, including Rapid Action Battalion and Detective Branch of the police. The whereabouts of these 19 remain unknown. There are many more such cases. Salah Uddin’s disappearance is nothing new.
2. RAB was desperately searching for Salah Uddin in days before pick up
The law enforcement authorities were desperately looking for Salah Uddin in the few days before he was picked up on the night of 10 March 2015.
(a) Pick up of three of Salah Uddin’s employee in the early hours of 8th March. Three days before Salah Uddin Ahmed was picked him, the BNP leader’s two drivers (Khokon and Shafique) and his personal assistant Goni, were picked up from their houses. Family members and independent eye-witnesses confirm that the men were picked up on this date by law enforcement authorities. Court documents state that “RAB” arrested them.
These three men were kept in the law enforcement custody for over 48 hours before being brought before a magistrate’s court. This is illegal as they should have been brought before a magistrate’s court within 24 hours. When they were brought before the court, the prosecutor alleged that they were ‘accomplices’ of Salah Uddin and had ‘harbored’ him. They were remanded in further police custody for three days.
See here: RAB picked up three Salah Uddin employees and cook
(b) Pick up of cook from house in Gulshan: On the same early morning – likely on the basis of information provided by one or other of the three arrested employees of Salah Uddin (see above) RAB raided a flat in a house in Road 136 in Gulshan where Salah Uddin had been in hiding and arrested a cook from the flat. According to the guards the law enforcement men were searching for Salah Uddin.
The cook was also detained for over 48 hours before being brought before the magistrate court and accused of the same offense as the three of Salah Uddin’s employees. Court documents also confirm that it was RAB that arrested him
See here: RAB picked up three Salah Uddin employees and cook (same article as above)
(c) Raid of First Security Islami Bank headquarters in Gulshan: On that same morning, RAB also raided the headquarters of this bank in the early morning hours looking for Salah Uddin, and in particular searched the 6th floor board room.
This raid is significant as the building in which the bank was located was owned by Salah Uddin, and both senior employees and bank directors were involved in helping to hide Salah Uddin since 5 March 2015 when he went into hiding. The raid suggests that the law enforcing authorities were circling in on the BNP leader.
– the owner of the flat in road 136 where Salah Uddin had been hiding until a few days before the 8th March, and from where the cook was arrested, was Shahidul Islam who was a director of the bank and also the brother of the bank’s chairman, Md Saiful Alam. Salah Uddin was friends with both the brothers.
3. Testimony of the caretaker.
In a number of independently taken interviews to the media, the caretaker of the building has stated that men, who introduced themselves as men from the Detective Branch, entered the building and took away a man.
Here is an extract from the New Age article, based on an interview which was recorded.
‘I challenged them and asked what they wanted, but they shouted back, “Shut up. Don’t say anything. We are from the detective branch,’’ Akhter Ali told New Age on Saturday night at the building where it happened.
‘They pulled up their shirts and showed their detective branch badge attached to their belts, and I could also see two pistols,’ he said.
‘I pleaded with the men and said that I was a poor man. “I don’t know anything, don’t harm me.” They gave me two slaps and told me to sit down.’
Two of the men, who were all in plain clothes, stayed on the ground floor with Akhter, and the remaning three or four climbed the stairs to the flats above.
‘I asked the men, “Why have you come here” and they said, “You will see later.”’
‘They said that they had information that an accused person was living on the second floor,’ the caretaker said.
After about 30 minutes, the four other law enforcers came down the stairs. Two of them were holding another man who was blindfolded.
‘I did not recognise the man at the time,’ the caretaker said, only coming to know later that he was Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s joint secretary general Salah Uddin Ahmed.
‘The piece of cloth tied round his eyes had, I think, green and red stripes. Two of the DB men were holding this man’s arms on either side, and there were another one or two men behind him. The blindfolded man did not say anything,” Akhter said.
Quite quickly, after the man was brought down the stairs, the main security doors were opened, and he was taken into one of the three microbuses that were parked outside.
‘I had not noticed the vehicles earlier, but I saw them as they drove away,’ Akhter said.
In the days after the alleged pick up, he gave a similar statement to Prothom Alo and to other media.
In a note known as a ‘General Diary’, the officer in charge of Uttara West police station claims that Akhter, the caretaker did not tell him that the men who took ‘Salah Uddin’ from the flat were from the law enforcement authorities. According to the GD, Akhter told the police that:
“The people came to house but their clothes did not indicate that they were from the Law enforcement authorities. They were also not carrying any weapon. The vehicle also did not look like a law enforcing vehicle. He also did not see any handcuffs on the guest. He apparently did not see any sign that he was taken by the people forcefully.”
This is clearly at odds with what Akhter stated to journalists, as well as to others who have met him. The caretaker is now no longer working at the house, and he is not reachable on his phones – so this apparent discrepancy cannot be clarified.
However, it should be noted that it is just about the universal experience of families of the ‘disappeared’ that police stations never accept a GD from a witness stating that law enforcement authorities were involved in the pick up/arrest. Even when a family member is a direct witness to a law enforcement pick up, the police only allow the families to lodge a ‘missing person’ GD which states that the man left the house at a particular time and has not come back. It is therefore very difficult to imagine that a police officer would accurately take down a statement from the caretaker which claimed that law enforcement were involved in Salah Uddin’s abduction.Whilst one must keep an open mind, it is difficult to give much weight to this police statement – particularly in light of the other evidence.
4. On the night of the pick up, RAB asked for directions to the street where Salah Uddin was picked up
In the area there is a local welfare association that provides security to the neighborhood. On the night Salah Uddin was picked up, a RAB vehicle stopped in front of one of the offices of the welfare association and asked the security officers where was road 13B, the road where Salah Uddin was taken from.
Here is an extract from the New Age report on this
New Age spoke to seven witnesses, including local security guards, and the residents confirmed the presence of law enforcers on road 13B on the night of March 10. ‘It was between 9:00pm and 9:15pm on that night [March 10] when a patrol-van carrying RAB personnel stopped in front of the Kalyan Samity office,’ a middle-aged security guard, who has been serving the welfare association for many years, told New Age.
The local welfare association, Kalyan Samity, provides security on 18 roads and 21 entrances to Sector 3, with all but four gates remaining closed after 9:00pm every day. At these four gates, private security guards are on duty.
‘I greeted them and one of them asked me about the location of road 13/B,’ the security guard added. ‘I showed them the way and they drove in that direction. Four or five men in uniform were in the rear of the black pickup while two were in front.’ Two more security guards confirmed what their colleague had said.
5. On the night of pick up law enforcement officers were seen in the street by residents
In addition residents state that they saw law enforcement vehicles in the area, and were asked my some men where exactly was the house 49B which was the house where the BNP leader was taken from.