Inmate dies of 'police torture' in Kurigram jail

Ekramul Hossain alias Ershad

A 35-year-old died in Kurigram district prison, days after being arrested on charges of drug peddling -- though no drugs were recovered from him when caught.

The accused, Ekramul Hossain alias Ershad, breathed his last on Saturday evening at Kurigram general hospital -- a place where he was taken from jail hospital as his condition deteriorated.

His family blamed the death on torture in custody as they failed to pay police Tk 200,000 as allegedly demanded.

However, Bhurungamari police station -- who arrested him -- refuted the allegation and termed the man a drug peddler and drug addict with seven cases pending.   

It is learnt that Ekramul was arrested on Wednesday evening for allegedly being involved in drug trade. Although police didn’t recover any drugs from him, he was sent to the district jail through the court on Thursday morning after being accused under section 151.

A medical report prepared by Bhurungamari upazila health complex accompanied Ekramul to the prison. The jail authorities kept him in the jail hospital. As his condition deteriorated there, he was sent to Kurigram general hospital for treatment -- where physicians pronounced him dead.   

Shiuli Begum, sister of Ekramul Hossain told Prothom Alo, "Police arrested my brother on Wednesday afternoon despite no drugs being recovered. My brother is no longer a drug addict. He would run his family with the earnings from a fish farm. The officer-in-charge (OC) of the police station demanded Tk 200,000 from us, otherwise threatened to send my brother to jail with 400 pieces of yaba. They tortured my brother as we delayed paying the money. Later we paid Tk 165,000 to the OC and his associate assistant sub inspector Raju. But they didn’t release my brother. My brother died of their torture."

The jailer of Kurigram district prison Abu Sayeem told Prothom Alo that "A medical report was sent to the jail with the accused which stated the reason behind his sickness is physical assault. We kept him in the jail hospital. As his condition deteriorated there yesterday afternoon, we sent him to Kurigram general hospital for treatment. He died there."

Terming Ekramul a drug peddler and drug addict, OC Nazrul Islam told Prothom Alo that seven cases were filed against him. He was arrested on Wednesday on a tip-off and later sent to the district jail on Thursday morning after being accused under section 151. However, no torture was inflicted on him.

When asked about the medical report, the OC said, "When we went to catch him, he tried to flee away. As a result he tripped and fell on the ground causing injury. Later he was taken to the upazila hospital for treatment. No torture was inflicted on him in the police station."

His body has been kept at the morgue for autopsy, the OC added.

When asked about money demanded from police, the OC termed the allegation false, adding, "It has been brought up to divert attention from the incident."