Thursday, August 30, 2007

DU teachers allege torture in custody

Dhaka University Professors have been tortured during their custody. They've said in the open court. No action was taken. They're sent back to remand again. What a shame for the justice system and the military government of Bangladesh. We need to share their suffering with the world and stand up to condemn this torture.

BD News reports:
Dhaka, Aug 30 (—Two Dhaka University teachers, detained for their alleged roles in "fuelling" campus violence, have accused interrogators of mental torture by beating other people in front of them in custody.

Physical assaults on other people in front of the teachers were a brutal tactic of interrogation, they told the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in Dhaka on Thursday.

The scenes of physical torture on others have forced them to pass sleepless nights, they alleged.

Professors Anwar Hossain and Harun-or-Rashid said they had no idea where they had been kept over the past few days although the charges against them are being pursued by Shahbagh police.

Both of them said they were sure the place of their detention was not Shahbagh Police Station.

A few minutes before arrival in the courtroom, Prof Anwar Hossain expressed sorrow over the "attitude shown to the army" during the student protests on Dhaka University campus. "It was an unwarranted incident. Today's military is not the same as in 1971. I am sorry about the attitude shown to the army men," Prof Hossain told the media.

In court, they said they were taken to an undisclosed location—blindfolded.

Security officials picked them up in separate raids on their university homes a week ago, although their families said the officers did not produce any arrest warrants.

The families also said they had no idea where or why the two detainees had been kept in custody until they were produced before court.

Only then was it made clear for the first time that charges of "giving provocative statements and instigating recent violent protests on Dhaka University campus" had been brought against them.

The two professors have denied the charges.

Anwar Hossain said Thursday they had in no way instigated the protests or violence on the campus.

"The charges against us are false," Hossain told the court of magistrate M Salehuddin. "I'm not lying."

"We'd tried to solve the crisis in the university. So why are we being tortured this way?

"I've been mentally tortured. I have been forced to pass sleepless nights.

"Some people were physically tortured in front of us to torment us mentally. We were devastated.

"I urge the court to order interrogation only at the jail gate or in court. Sending us to a special place for interrogation will amount to injustice," said Hossain.

Professor Harun-or-Rashid echoed his sentiments.

"Other people have been tortured in front of us. We have been mentally tortured. I couldn't sleep," Rashid said.

"I had been kept in an unknown place for the last seven days. I am mentally shaken.

"I am a Dhaka University teacher. The university is like a family to me. My job is to teach students. I could not sleep for the last few days. I want to tell everyone without fear – here in court."

The magistrate heard the allegations before ruling that the interrogators were allowed to question the teachers for four more days in a second separate case of similar charges. The second set of charges involve the breach of emergency powers rules.

Their initial four-day remand expired Thursday and they were taken to court. The police sought a 10-day remand for further questioning in the second case but the magistrate granted only four days.

In the new remand plea, the police said: "The two teachers instigated the violence at Dhaka University, which was a breach of emergency powers rules."

"They led a procession chanting slogans from Fuller Road past Shaheed Minar to Doel Chattar and Bangla Academy. When the police intercepted them, they attacked the police with sticks and brickbats. They led a series of violent activities on the campus," the appeal said.

The raft of allegations includes leading the attacks on Nilkhet Police Outpost and damage to government and private property.

The teachers have also been accused of frightening the general population by burning effigies of different people.

"They made provocative statements and helped destabilise law and order," the allegations said.

The counsels for the teachers urged the court to reject the remand plea and to issue an order for medical treatment of the accused.

One of the teachers is a diabetic patient and the other has high blood pressure, the lawyers said.

On the appeal for medical treatment, the court said: "The investigating officer will take care of it. The remand has been approved for the sake of investigation."

The lawyers said the two teachers were taken to court on August 25 for the first time, 40 hours after they were arrested—which runs counter to the law and the constitution.

After a 30-minute hearing, the two teachers were led away from court amid tight police protection.

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