Jesmin’s whereabouts two hours after being picked up remain unknown  

Sultana Jesmin

According to RAB, Sultana Jesmin, office assistant of Naogaon Union Land Office, was arrested on 22 March at 11:50 am. She then fell ill and was immediately admitted to the hospital. On the other hand, witnesses say that the detention was between 9:30 am and 10:30 am. These two accounts have a gap of two hours. Jesmin’s family want to know where Jesmin was for those two hours.

The day after her arrest, Rajshahi commissioner's office joint secretary Enamul Haque filed a case against Jesmin under the Digital Security Act. According to the case, the RAB patrol team picked up Jesmin from the road based on the complaint of the plaintiff.

However, Jesmin's relatives claimed that RAB arrested her in a pre-planned raid and she died due to physical and mental torture. Apart from this, her family did not get any information about her whereabouts until she was admitted to the Naogaon hospital at 1:15 that day. Her family now demands to know where Jesmin was kept till she was taken to the hospital.

According to RAB, Jesmin felt sick on the way to the police station after being arrested and was taken to Naogaon Hospital. Later she was shifted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital where she died the following day.

One of the eyewitnesses to Jesmin's arrest was Abu Hayat, who was made witness by RAB during the raid. Abu Hayat has also been made a witness in the case filed by joint secretary Enamul Haque at Rajpara Police Station in Rajshahi against Jesmin on the following day (23 March).

Abu Hayat is an employee of a shop ‘Kalpana Hardware’ in Naogaon. He told Prothom Alo, (on 22 March) around 9:30 in the morning, a person stopped a rickshaw on the road in front of his shop at Mukti Mor. A woman was talking on the mobile phone in the rickshaw. A microbus with RAB men arrived at once and took picked the woman (Jesmin) up in the vehicle. The entire incident took only 10 to 12 minutes. Then a member of RAB asked Abu Hayat to sign a paper. After that they took the woman away.

Abul Bashar, manager of Kalpana Hardware, also gave a similar description to Prothom Alo. Shafiqul Islam, owner of M/s Rehena Medical Store located at Mukti Mor, was also witnessed the incident. He knew Jesmin from before. It was Shafiqul who informed her uncle Nazmul Haque over phone about Jesmin’s detention. Shafiqul told Prothom Alo that when Jesmin asked about their identity RAB members showed their identity card.

These three eyewitnesses confirmed to Prothom Alo that Jesmin was arrested around 9:30 in the morning and taken to the microbus.

RAB denies detaining her for two hours

Joint secretary Enamul Haque claimed that he went to Naogaon on 22 March for official work from Rajshahi. On that day at 11:00 am he informed a RAB patrol team at Naogaon bus stand about being cheated, Immediately, the RAB team came to Mukti to arrest Jesmin. She was arrested by RAB at 11:50am. RAB interrogated Jesmin in front of the witnesses. Later, during the interrogation, Jesmin fell ill. She was immediately admitted to Naogaon Hospital.

The time mentioned on the list is also shown 12:30 pm. However, Abu Hayat, a witness to the list, told Prothom Alo that RAB took his signature on a paper around 10:30 am after Jesmin was detained.

But RAB denied that Jesmin was in RAB's custody for two hours from 10:30am to 12:30pm.

The RAB team that picked up Jesmin is attached to Jaipurhat camp of RAB-5. These correspondents have tried several times in the past two days to reach RAB-5 captain lieutenant colonel Riyaz Shahriar over phone, but failed. The correspondents could not see him while visiting to the RAB-5 captain's office in Rajshahi on Wednesday afternoon.

Then Khandaker Al Moin, director of legal and media wing of RAB headquarters was contacted. He told Prothom Alo that there was a witness when Jesmin was detained. She was arrested in front of the witness. After the arrest, Jesmin fell ill while being taken to the police station after printing documents and completion of other formalities.

This RAB spokesperson said, the times mentioned in the statement about the detention, were all approximate times. Jesmin was arrested in front of the witness at the time mentioned in the statement.

When contacted the plaintiff of the case, Enamul Haque, refused to speak citing that the matter is under trial in the court.

The correspondent talked to Jesmin's uncle Nazmul Haque who is also the councilor of Ward no. 4 of Naogaon Sadar Municipality, on Tuesday afternoon at Naogaon court premises. He told Prothom Alo that Jesmin usually leaves home after 9:00am for the office. Jesmin left at the same time that day. She was picked up by RAB between 9:30am and 10:30am.

Nazmul Haque said, "I want to know Jesmin’s whereabouts for the two hours before the mentioned time of detention in the statement and what happened to her during that time."

There was mild injury

Naogaon 250-bed general hospital supervisor Zahid Nazrul Chowdhury told one of the correspondents that the closed circuit camera footage showed that RAB members brought Jesmin to the hospital on 22 March at 1:15 pm. She was feeble at the time. There was a slight bruise on her forehead. Her blood pressure was low. She was sent to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital in the evening after her condition deteriorated.

Zahid Nazrul Chowdhury also said that the RAB investigation committee came to the hospital last Monday. He told them the same thing.

Meanwhile, the Rajshahi Medical College authorities have handed over the autopsy report to the police on Monday. According to the report, the injuries on the head were too mild to cause death. She died of brain haemorrhage. Jesmin's autopsy was conducted following the Digital Security Act case.

‘The raid wasn’t sudden’

Plaintiff Enamul Haque in the FIR claimed he gave the verbal complaint against Jesmin suddenly. RAB detained Jesmin based on that allegation.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Jesmin’s maternal uncle Nazmul Haque said this was a completely planned raid. Jesmin was being followed since she left home. The time mentioned in the FIR, carrying out a raid so fast is abnormal. Besides, unknown people were seen gathering around the residence of Jesmin at Janakalyan Mor (intersection) on the previous day of the incident. That means Jesmin was picked up after a recon exercise.

Speaking about this, RAB spokesperson commander Khandaker Al Moin said, “No RAB member followed Jesmin before. If the joint secretary (plaintiff Enamul Haque) complained to anyone else, in that case anyone else could follow her.”

Though plaintiff Enamul Haque in the FIR mentioned about verbally complaining to RAB suddenly, he told the Rajshahi staff correspondent of Prothom Alo on 28 March that he filed a written complaint to RAB-5 in November last year that he became a victim of fraudulence through digital medium.

Earlier, RAB in an explanation about the allegation said the frauds hacked the Facebook ID of joint secretary Enamul Haque and misappropriated a large amount of money promising people to give jobs. The frauds on 19 and 20 March misappropriated the money using Enamul Haque’s name in front of his office. On information, Enamul Haque enquired and came to know that a person, Al Amin, is involved with the forgery. He also came to know that a woman, Sultana Jesmin, is also involved with this.

RAB arrested Al Amin on 28 March, four days after the death of Sultana Jesmin, from Dhaka. But police has not started any process to bring him to Rajshahi as of Wednesday.

Police yet to begin investigation

There has been no progess in the case filed against Sultana Jesmin under the Digital Security Act. The investigation officer (IO) of the case Subas Chandra Burman, a sub-inspector at Rajpara police station, declined to talk about the issue. However, a police high official in Rajshahi told Prothom Alo that the responsibility of this case is to police on paper only. They could not start the investigation so far.

However, Rajshahi Metropolitan Police’s (RMP) additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Rafiqul Alam said the investigation has started and he does not want to speak about the progress made so far.

Meanwhile, RAB formed a three-member committee to investigate into the death of Sultana Jesmin in custody of RAB. The committee members took a written statement of Sultana Jesmin’s son Shahed Hossain and her sister’s husband Aminul Islam on Monday. Shahed Hossain and Aminul Islam did not want to say anything about this to Prothom Alo.

Jesmin’s maternal uncle Nazmul Haque told Prothom Alo the RAB investigation committee asked them (Shahed Hossain and Aminul Islam) to write everything they know about Sultana Jesmin. The committee did not ask anything more.

Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik told Prothom Alo if the verbal allegation was brought after 11:00 am and RAB detained her by 9:30 am, then a wrong interpretation of the course of incidents is being provided.

According to him there is no legal base of making such arrest or detention. Clearly something else worked as the motive behind this incident. It is expected that action would be taken against the accused RAB member under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013.

* The report originally appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat and Shameem Reza