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Death of Lawyer Ahmed was tortured in police custody

Edit Date:10/10/2011 12:00:00 AM


Versions of witnesses, family contradict claims of cops
MU Ahmed M Rahman and Shaheen Mollah

Contrary to police claims, The Daily Star found that pro-BNP lawyer MU Ahmed was tortured in police custody and he was in detention for at least three hours on August 11, during which he suffered a massive heart attack that led to his death on August 26.

Talking to Ahmed's family members, witnesses, police and other sources, The Daily Star came to know that MU Ahmed was picked up at his home between 2:30am and 3:30am on August 11.

The plain-clothed policemen started physically assaulting Ahmed when he was arrested at his Segunbagicha home. This continued as he was pushed into a police vehicle. Witnesses saw policemen slap and kick Ahmed. Before that the law enforcers also beat up two security guards of Ahmed's residence.

Ahmed had the heart attack in an intimidating and fearful environment created by the law enforcers.

He was then taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital in a microbus at 6:25 in the morning. Doctors there diagnosed him with a massive heart attack and asked the police to take him to the National Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases (NICVD) in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. At this point, instead of moving Ahmed in an ambulance, the police used the same microbus to take him to the NICVD.

Police say that they used the microbus since they could not get an ambulance.

The Detective Brach (DB) of Police, in a press briefing had claimed that Ahmed was kept only for 30 to 40 minutes at its office before they took him to DMCH and that they did not assault him in custody.

Police arrested Ahmed at his Segunbagicha residence on August 11 in connection with assaulting police and obstructing them in discharging their duties on the Supreme Court premises on August 2 and 4.

It was around 1:30am when 20 to 25 men appeared before the gate of Ahmed's flat building and started knocking violently, said manager of the security guards Mohammad Sohel quoting his colleagues.

When asked who they were, the men claimed that they were government officials and they needed to enter the building for official business.

Sohel said the security guards told the men that the building authority's permission is required to open the gate after midnight. The men then hurled abusive words at the guards and started threatening them with dire consequences if they did not open the gate.

Sohel said, “Within moments I went down from upstairs and opened the gate informing the building authority. On opening the gate some personnel swooped on me and my colleague Mujibur and dragged us into one of their vehicles parked in front of the gate.

“Police severely slapped and kicked us saying 'why did you not open the gate?' and they said we were under arrest.

“As we could not tell whether they were robbers or law enforces in plain clothes, we took a few minutes to take permission from the building authority for opening the gate.”

Around 2:30am, they saw some angry policemen dragging Ahmed out by his neck towards the vehicle they were in, Sohel said, adding that the policemen then got them out and pushed and shoved Ahmed inside the vehicle.

The policemen left with Ahmed only.

Ahmed's wife Selina Ahmed said, “Around 1:30am the policemen entered all the rooms simultaneously after the main door of my flat was opened and they started ransacking the flat including Almiras, wardrobes and beds in such a way that my two minor sons got panicked.”

She claimed that after the incident her elder son caught a fever.

She said, “The policemen did not disclose their names or their unit, rather they misbehaved with me when I asked where Ahmed will be taken to.”

Selina said the police arrested Ahmed on the second floor of the building where he was hiding and they took him away after 2:00am.

Following the advice of a few colleagues of Ahmed, she went to the DB office around 5:00am with his glasses and clothes but on duty policemen at the DB office gate refused to allow her in or have the clothes and glasses sent to Ahmed.

Selina returned home after waiting there for a while.

She said around 7:30am a security guard told her over the intercom of the building that Ahmed was taken to NICVD as his physical condition was not good.

Selina could not say how the security guard got the information that Ahmed was not well. She was also not informed that Ahmed was taken to DMCH first.

Selina said, “We immediately rushed to NICVD and found he was kept on life support and he could not speak.” Ahmed slowly started talking around 8:00am on August 13, she noted.

Recalling what her husband told her in the hospital bed, Selina said, “Police dragged him into their vehicle after arresting him. They slapped and assaulted him inside the vehicle on the way.” He was then taken to a dark room with no fans and was tortured by DB police at the DB office, she said.

When he was feeling as if he was being suffocated he asked for a fan, to which policemen threatened him that they would tie him up to the chair with a rope to give him electric shocks, she said, adding that that was when Ahmed fainted.

She said her husband did not have any heart, kidney or lung diseases and he did not suffer from diabetes even. Selina said Ahmed was in quite a good health when police arrested him.

Hours after Ahmed's death, Deputy Commissioner (DB South) Monirul Islam arranged a press briefing at the DB public relations office where he said Ahmed was kept only for 30 to 40 minutes at the DB office after his arrest. He said during this short stay he was not tortured.

However, a DB official, who was in the team that arrested Ahmed, on condition of anonymity said they arrested him at 3:30am and took him to Dhaka Medical College from the DB office in a microbus at 6:25am. The official said Ahmed was in DB custody for around three hours.

However, The Daily Star could not verify exactly when he was taken to DMCH as the DMCH does not record arrival of a patient who has not been admitted to the hospital.

The DB official said as Ahmed felt pain in his chest, he was rushed to DMCH in a microbus at 6:25am where doctors diagnosed him with heart disease and referred him to NICVD as there was no vacant bed at the Coronary Care Unit of DMCH.

The DB official said from DMCH they took Ahmed to NICVD in the same microbus.

NICVD register showed that Ahmed was taken there at 7:10am.

Doctor SM Siddiqur Rahman, associate professor (cardiology) of NICVD, said he started treating Ahmed at 8:00am and he was given life support as he had a massive heart attack.

Ahmed was later moved to Square Hospitals Ltd on August 16 after his wife got him released signing a bond. He died there on August 26.

Selina alleged that in the early hours of August 27, police took Ahmed's body from the Birdem mortuary without informing the family and had the autopsy performed at Dhaka Medical College morgue only to influence the post-mortem report.

DC Monir said they carried out the autopsy as Ahmed's family members and party colleagues accused the police of torturing him and causing his death.

Asked why the family was not informed about the autopsy, he claimed that they are not required to tell family members that they are doing an autopsy.

However, DC Monir in his briefing had said Ahmed's body was handed over to the family without any post mortem following the wishes of the family members.

Dhaka Medical College morgue sources said they did not find any torture marks on Ahmed's body. They, however, said it is almost impossible to find marks of slapping or electric shocks after around 17 days. They said both the kidneys and lungs were infected and the heart was a little bit larger than usual.



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