On the night of October 14, Mohammed Ripon, a young man barely in his teens, was asleep on a wooden bed on the ground floor of a small block of flats at Madhya Badda, where he used to work as a caretaker. He was woken up by banging on the gate.
‘There were about 10 men and a woman in plain clothes,’ he told New Age. ‘They said that they were police. I opened the gate,’ he said.
‘They then asked to see Sharif,’ the young caretaker said, referring to 35-year-old Shakhawat Hossain Sharif whose family owned the block of flats. The caretaker took the police to the roof of the building where Sharif lived in a single room.
‘They immediately handcuffed him [Shakhawat]. They wanted his mobile phone and the keys to his bike,’ Ripon said. ‘One of the policemen had a small hammer, and he started to hit him with it.’
Sumon, one of Shakhawat’s brothers, an active member of the local unit of the ruling Awami League’s youth organisation, also lived in the building and went upstairs to see what was going on. ‘I saw my brother being questioned, beaten and taken away,’ Sumon said.
The men also broke the lock of Sharif’s motorbike and wheeled it out of the garage.
The next time Sumon saw his brother was on television 10 days later when he was one of the four men, all of them friends from Badda, paraded before the media and accused of killing Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella at the end of September. The bike taken from the house was also present at the press conference with the police claiming that it was used by the killers of Tavella to escape the murder scene.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner told the media that Shakhawat and the three other men had been arrested on October 25, the night before the press conference. However interviews with family members and independent witnesses, confirm that all four of the men were detained two weeks earlier. Police are required by law to obtain the court’s permission before detaining a person more than 24 hours.
The sequence of detentions started on October 10.
At about 1100 am, Russel Chowdhury, unemployed for the last seven months, was watching television at his South Badda house. ‘I was standing by the front door gossiping when I saw four men come into the house through the back entrance,’ Russel’s mother Afroza Akhter said.
The men handcuffed Russel and took him into the front room. A neighbour, Yasmin Akhter, confirmed that she saw Russel sitting handcuffed on the couch. ‘The police officer was interrogating him and Russel was asking him, “Why do you want to take me from my home,” and the policeman said “Don’t you know why we are here?”’
Just before Russel was taken away, the family members asked one of the men to give them a contact number. One of the officers wrote on a piece of paper ‘Zeahad, Minto Road’ with a telephone number.
New Age has confirmed that the number belongs to inspector Zeahad Hossain, the investigation officer of the Travera murder case. Zeahad Hossain said that the claim that he detained Shakhawat on October 10 was ‘totally false.’
The other two men accused of the murder were both picked up on the evening of October 12, close to the Gulshan-Badda link road.‘At about 5:00pm, my brother borrowed Tk 100 from my mother and went out of the house,’ a sister of Minhajul Abedin Russel said. ‘A few hours later we got a call saying that he had been picked up by the Detective Branch from outside Walton shop on the main road.’
Tamjid Ahmed Rubel also did not return home that evening. On Wednesday, New Age reported that Tamjid had told his family during a jail visit that on the evening of October 12 he was picked up by detectives on the link road and taken to their Minto Road office where he was detained before being presented to the media on Monday.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has repeatedly denied claims that the men were arrested before October 25.
Source: New Age