Friday, July 20, 2007

Legal Aspects of Case

Legal Aspects of Case
[Republished from Sajeeb Wazed's blog]

The charge itself against my mother is very flimsy. Azam Chowdhury, a businessman, was arrested by the military and forced to file them while in custody. The claim is that Sheikh Selim, former Health Minister and my mother’s cousin, demanded that Chowdhury pay him or his project would be stopped by the Prime Minister’s Office. Chowdhury paid Sheikh Selim by check, which itself is suspicious as to why he would extort money and leave a paper trail.

Sheikh Selim was arrested and tortured and was forced to sign a false confession. Nowhere is there any direct evidence against my mother.

The alleged extortion occurred seven years ago. The fact that Chowdhury did not come forward with this allegation during the last five years in which the BNP was in power is further evidence that the charges are false. The BNP would have been only too happy to arrest my mother.

No charge sheet has yet been submitted by the police against her. It should be noted that the Law Advisor, Barrister Mainul Hosein stated that it was necessary to arrest her for submitting charge sheet, thereby putting it on record that the Government has arrested her without submitting a charge sheet against her. Under criminal procedure the suspect in a complaint cannot be arrested until the charge sheet has been filed.

The case has been lodged under Section 385 and 109 of the Bangladesh Penal Code. The allegation is that she has abetted the commission of the offence of extortion. But the allegations brought against her in the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the police do not constitute the offence of extortion. For the offence of extortion to occur there has to be inducement, which should result in creating such fear in the mind of the victim as to make him give property.

The case has been brought under the Emergency Power Rules, 2007, by virtue of Section 19(j) of the Emergency Power Rules, 2007. This deprives her of her right to bail, appeal and an open trial by jury. It should also be noted that the alleged offence occurred some seven years prior to the enactment of the Emergency Power Rules, 2007 and legally they cannot be applied retroactively to this offence.

The authorities have not as yet allowed either family or even her lawyers to meet her. This is yet another violation of due process as every accused is entitled to meet family members and lawyers at regular intervals.

Finally, the Anti-Corruption Commission has issued a notice to her after her arrest to provide a wealth statement. But as she is under arrest and has no access to either her personal documents or her lawyers, she may be held responsible and convicted under the Anti Corruption Act, 2004, if she fails to submit her wealth statement in time. This is a trap by the authorities and yet another violation of due process.

I receive many anonymous comments that make blatantly false accusations and claims. I reserve the right to moderate these comments out, as well as any personal attacks and vulgar language.

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