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Eventful seven days

Rozina Islam, who published a number of investigative reports unveiling corruptions involving billions of taka amid the Covid-19 pandemic, went to the health ministry on 17 May to carry out her profession duties. She was kept there confined for nearly six hours and harassed by the officials.

At one point she fell ill but she was not provided with any medical treatment. At around 8:30 pm, police took her to the Shahbagh police station and was kept at police custody for 11 hours. The case was filed against her by health ministry’s health services division deputy secretary Md Shibbir Ahmed Osmani around 11:45 pm that day.

Rozina was produced before the court the next morning and was kept in lock-up for almost three hours. Police also pleaded for a five-day remand of her but the court turned the plea down.

It took almost 23 hours from her harassment and hearing at the court to send her to Kashimpur High Security Prison in Gazipur. Her bail hearing was held on Thursday. The court fixed Sunday to pass the order.

Rozina’s lawyers said the allegations brought against her were fabricated, baseless and made out of ulterior motives. She had every right to get bail, the added.

About eight minutes of hearing and bail order

The prosecutors and the lawyers of Rozina Islam attended the virtual hearing at 10:35 am. At the beginning of the hearing, chief public prosecutor Abdullah Abu said the case is pending for order. Earlier, it was said that some documents from the state side would be presented and an order would be issued on Sunday.

The investigating officer has already submitted some documents to the court. The case is sensitive and the accused is a woman. If she (Rozina) submits her passport to the court, she could be granted an interim bail. We will not have any objection in this regard.

Rozina’s lawyer Ehsanul Haque Samaji said, there is no detailed information regarding the documents submitted by the prosecution to the court. Public prosecutor has talked about the bail on condition of submitting passport.

In the eyes of the law, conditional bail is not actually bail. But we have no disagreement with the proposal made by the public prosecutor. Therefore, the court will issue an order considering the statements of both the parties.

Lawyers Aminul Gani Tito, Ashraful Alam, Jyotirmoy Barua, Prashant Kumar Karmakar and Ain o Salish Kendra’s (ASK) Abdur Rashid defended Rozina Islam in court.

Lawyer Moshiur Rahman of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Mizanur Rahman of ASK, Dipti Sikder of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Shammee Akhter, Sumon Kumar Roy, Mahbubul Haque and Abdur Rahim also provided legal assistance for Rozina Islam.

Lawyer Taposh Kumar Paul and Hemayet Uddin Khan Hiron represented the state as public prosecutors.

Bail arguments between Rozina’s lawyer and the prosecution

Rozina Islam was sued under the sections 379 and 411 of the Penal Code and sections 3 and 5 of Official Secrets Act.

Earlier, on 20 May, during the hearing, Rozina Islam’s counsels told the court that allegations brought against her were false, fabricated, baseless, concocted and motivated and she deserved to be released on a bail.

However, claiming the clauses of this case are non-bailable, the public prosecutor said in the hearing that Rozina Islam has kept sensitive information under her possession after stealing, which is a crime.

In the hearing, lawyer Ehsanul Haque Samaji told the court that there is no element of sections 3 and 5 under the Official Secrets Act in the FIR (first information report) of the case. There must be a description of documents that she is said to have stolen if the elements of section 379 and 411 are to be included. But there is no such description in the FIR.

As per description of the said seized documents, those are not directly taken from Rozina Islam, rather a government official handed them over to the police official. So it is a matter of legal question whether the documents were recovered searching her body or she at all stole the documents and later those were recovered from her or not.

Referring to section 5 of the same act, Ehsanul Haque said, "I quoted section 5 which mentions "wrongful communication with the other enemy," which means producing such documents and communicating with such a person that would go against the security of the state. But there is no such allegation either in the FIR."

Samaji told the court that allegations brought against Rozina were "false, fabricated and baseless". Rozina Islam has been victim of circumstances while risking her life during the coronavirus pandemic.

"As per the section 12 of the act, if there is no offense under the section 3, then the offense under the remaining sections is bailable. So, according to the penal code's section 496, her obtaining bail is not any kindness or favour, rather it is her fundamental right to get bail,” Samaji added.

On the other hand, public prosecutor Hemayet Uddin Khan Hiron represented the state. He compared Rozina Islam with the scheming historical figure 'Ghasheti Begum'.

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