A youth was shown killed in crossfire after he was tortured to death in police custody in Dhaka’s Wari early April and the victim's mother was forced to withdraw the murder case, finds a Prothom Alo investigation.
The name of the victim is Rakib Hawlader whereas the police gave his identity as Md Rakib alias Chhoto (little) Rakib. The family said he was only 15 years of age but the police claimed he was 22.
Rakib’s mother Rita Hawlader, based on her own witnessing and accounts of others she talked to, alleged that her son was tortured to death in Wari police station on 5 April. His body was then taken to a nearby place called Joykali Mandir and shown killed in cross-fire.
The police, however, called Rakib a snatcher and claimed that he was shot in a cross-fire during an incident of robbery at Toyenbee Circular Road of the capital.
“When I went to the police station gate, I heard the people were regretting that the boy was killed and the thana (police station) was being cleaned. The dead body was shown fallen after a [made-up] cross-fire near Joykali Mandir,” said Rita Hawlader recalling her experience in the morning of 6 April.
She added, as she received the body from Dhaka Medical College Hospital morgue, she found his right hand broken, head injured and marks of torture in other parts especially abdomen and legs.
Rita named then officer-in-charge of Wari police station Rafiqul Islam, inspector (investigation) Mohammad Selim, assistant sub-inspector Jyotish Chandra Roy and police informant Mosharraf Hossain in the case when she filed it with a Dhaka court on 11 April.
However, as it is alleged, pressured by the police and influential people, Rita’s family filed an appeal on 10 May to withdraw the case.
“The police threatened to kill us unless we withdraw the case. Influential people also put pressure on us to do so; otherwise, we will be evicted from the area,” she told Prothom Alo on 5 July. She also said, “I told the court that my son Rakib was killed in the thana compound and I want justice and I want to continue the case.”
Based on an investigation report submitted on 24 May, the court of Dhaka’s additional chief metropolitan magistrate Asaduzzaman Noor observed on 25 June that it appeared from the report that the plaintiff did not want to continue the case.
The court also relieved the accused from the case.
"If the case is withdrawn due to intimidation by the police and influential ones, the state and the judiciary should have investigated the matter," said chairman of Children Charity Bangladesh Foundation Abdul Halim.
He also pointed out that the investigation should not remain incomplete despite any application from the plaintiff to withdraw the case since there is an issue of intimidation involved.
Insisting that all extrajudicial killings should be investigated and culprits be tried, human rights activist Sultana Kamal said, "If we supposed that Rakib's mother backed out, out of fear, we've reasons to be worried."
Rakib's grandfather Abdul Latif Sarkar, president of ward number 38 of Kaptan Bazar unit of ruling Awami League, alleged, "Local Awami League leaders and the police officers asked us to compromise and forced us to withdraw the case."
He explained to Prothom Alo that a mugger named Rakib was involved in the murder of Talha, nephew of AL leader Mahiuddin Mahi. "But, the police detained my innocent grandson Rakib and tortured him to death in custody. And then, he was shown killed in crossfire. He was not involved in the Talha murder either," he added.
Rakib's mother also blamed informant of the police Mosharraf, who had borrowed certain amount from Rita's family, for collaboration with the law enforcers to detain him.
Denying the allegations of forcing Rakib's family to withdraw the case, former officer-in-charge of Wari police station Rafiqul Islam told Prothom Alo, "We forced no one to withdraw the case." Currently, he is the OC of Badda police station.
He also claimed that they never detained any one named Rakib, "We didn't nab anyone named Rakib."
The family said Rakib, who acted as a child artist in two movies, was caught by assistant sub-inspector of Wari police Jyotish Chandra Roy from Kaptanbazar around 10:00 o’clock in the night of 4 April 2018.
Rita Hawlader said she saw her son at Wari police station the next morning. They talked to the police officer who allegedly said Rakib would be freed after quizzing.
Whern Jyotish Chandra Roy declined to say anything, just saying that the higher authorities would make statement in this regard if needed.
In her written complaint to the court, Rita said she heard that her son was crying in another room. She found a cloth tied around Rakib's mouth and he was stripped of his pants. Rakib's mother was asked to leave.
The next morning, Rita wanted to offer some food to her son but the police declined to receive it, she said. The police rather hurled abusive words at her, she alleged. According to her complaints, the officer-in-charge even said there was none named Rakib at the police custody. She was then not allowed to enter the police station.
On 6 April when Rita Hawlader went to the gate of the police station, she heard the rumour of her son's death. And later at Dhaka Medical College morgue, she received the body of her son bearing marks of torture that she witnessed in police custody.
Rita said the day she filed the case the police tried to abduct her from the court premises. On 19 April, a team of police led by sub-inspector Zakir Hossain came to Rita's house and threatened the family. As they declined to sign on a piece of paper the policemen insisted on, the law enforcers engaged in scuffling with the family members, Rita received wounds in her eye.
About withdrawal of the case, Rita said although Rakib was killed she had no allegation against anyone. "I seek justice to Almighty Allah."
Rita's lawyer Moshraq Ahmed said the police personnel intimidated his client.
*The article has been rewritten in English by Khawaza Main Uddin and Imam Hossain