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Jamaat-e-Islami Inside the Militant Groups-4 (24 August)

Jamaat-e-Islami Inside the Militant Groups-4 (24 August)
They go free too easily
Zayadul Ahsan

A day after the August 17 serial blasts, Lutfor Rahman was caught by police at Thakurgaon for suspected links to the bombings. Records showed he was arrested twice in 2000 and 2001 for taking military training at an Ahle Hadith mosque in the district. Despite having specific evidence against him of being a militant, police detained him for ‘suspicious activities.’ He was soon released because of lack of any specific charges against him. Lutfor continued his militant activities.

Lutfor is only one case in point. Like him, at least 500 Islamist militants have been released on similar grounds in the past four years. Many of them were arrested several times in the act of terrorist activities, and yet no specific charges were brought against them and they were all left off the hook.

In late 1996, some 40 militants were arrested with dummy rifles while taking arms training at a Barguna Qwami madrasa. They were almost immediately released as police said they were engaged in ‘preaching Islam’.

On June 30, 2004, 33 militants were arrested at a mosque in Barguna, which made international headlines. Police found booklets on jihad in their possession. Charges were brought against six of them while the rest were released immediately. Even those six were later freed on bail.

Fazle Rabbi and Lutfor Rahman, two militants, were arrested at an Ahle Hadith mosque at Ranishankail of Thakurgaon in 2000 for taking militant training. They also came out of custody, and were soon arrested two more times — once in 2001 and then again after the serial bombings of August 17.

One thing has become clear from the arrest and release stories: despite having specific evidence, police remain reluctant to bring any specific charges against the militants. In many cases, evidence was deliberately or mysteriously destroyed or witnesses barred from appearing before court to testify.

According to a Prothom Alo report on August 23, 2003, CID Inspector Khaliur Rahman made revealing comments about seven JMB militants arrested in Joypurhat on April 16, 2003. “I submitted three petitions at various times seeking permission to implicate three of the arrested in a murder case, but I did not get the permission,” he said. All seven were later freed.

According to press reports, 74 suspected militants were arrested in 1998, three in 1999, eight in 2001, five in 2002, 72 in 2003, 126 in 2004 and over 160 this year before the serial bombings.

Police headquarters on August 30, 2003 asked all top district bosses of Rajshahi police to take action against the militants and maintain a logbook of militant activities. The instructions, however, were never followed for mysterious reasons.

Jagrata Muslim Janata of Bangladesh (JMJB) chief Siddiqul Islam, nicknamed Bangla Bhai, is a glaring example of how militants have repeatedly escaped police dragnets and subsequently waged a reign of terror with backing from ruling party lawmakers. He was first arrested along with five others for attacking an Awami League leader in Mollarhat in Bagerhat on August 17, 2002. As villagers chased him, he took shelter in a house from where he was later caught with arms and militant documents. But police dropped Bangla

Bhai’s name from a charge sheet and no specific charges were brought against the rest. Rather, police termed him ‘an Islamic scholar’. All the criminals were later freed.

Bangla Bhai was later held at Joypurhat while mobilising militants to attack another house. Again he was freed.

Others have similarly flourished while evading arrest. The home ministry took six months to give a nod to Rajshahi police to bring sedition charges against Al Hiqma chief Syed Kawsar Hossain after his arrest on November 6, 2004. Earlier, police did not bring any sedition charges against him when he was arrested twice with evidence of anti-state activities.

Forty-one Harkat-ul Jihad (Huji) operatives, who were arrested during arms training in a Ukhia jungle in Cox’s Bazar on February 19, 1996, were convicted on May 3, 1998 for keeping arms and for explosive cases. But they received bail from the High Court without strong objection from the prosecution after the BNP-led coalition came to power.

Seven foreign citizens of Al Haramaine were arrested in September 2002 on suspicion of involvement in international militant organisations and placed on remand. But they were released on bail, and later dropped by police at a city hotel in a police vehicle for mysterious reasons. Law enforcers have since lost their trace.

On February 23, 2003 banned Al Hiqma leader Azimuddin and Azhar Ali Bhuian were arrested but against no charges were brought against them.

Seven JMB militants were arrested at Kalai of Bogra on April 25, 2003, but police let them go without filing any case against them. One of the seven, Salahuddin, was arrested on February 23 this year for bombing a Brac office at Kalai.

Police arrested three leaders of Al Hiqma in Rajshahi for involvement in anti-state activities on February 15, 2003. A case was filed under the arms act but the name of their organisation was not mentioned in the case. They were later freed on bail.

JMB activists fought with police at Moheshpur village in Khetlal upazila of Joypurhat on August 14, 2003 and snatched three shotguns and a wireless set from the police. Some of the injured attackers who could not escape were not arrested. Later, after directives from the high command, police arrested 39 people in connection with the shootout, but all of them were freed on bail.

In August 2003, five militants of Hizbut Towhid were arrested in Gazipur, but they were sent to jail without any case. Police arrested four other Hizbut Towhid men in Kushtia for killing a woman in September 2003 but no case was filed against them either.

Nine suspected militants of JMB were arrested at Bogra in August 2003 but they were sent to court for ‘suspicious activities’ under section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

On September 20, 2003, police arrested 18 militants led by Abdur Rouf, who claims to have taken part in the Afghan war, in Boalmari while taking training. But that day, police released 16 of them without investigating their cases.

Rouf had informed the press that he was previously apprehended by Cox’s Bazar police along with 40 Arakan rebels in 1995.

Nine JMB activists were arrested in April 2004 in Parbatipur with 25 petrol bombs. But all the evidence against them was burned in police custody. The local police super told the press a fire originating from a short circuit burned the evidence. All nine were later acquitted from charges.

Police arrested seven suspected Islamist militants from a mosque in Dinajpur on July 29 this year but later freed them following instructions from Jamaat-e-Islami leaders.

The police freed them at around 12:00 noon as Jamaat Ameer Aftabuddin Molla of Dinajpur told the police they were activists of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat, and were walking in the area after offering Esha prayer in the mosque.

On May 31, 24 followers of Bangla Bhai were released from the Rajshahi Central Jail.

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