Babul has got fredom but only after spending 25 years in jail without trial. Will the state be able to return his youthful age that is entirely lost for negligene of the officers and red tape of the system?
Life has now been more uncertain for a man who was detained as a boy and who lost his father and mother during his detention.
The crime for which Mohammed Babul of Brahmanbaria was arrested warrants a maximum 10-year prison sentence, but he remained incarcerated for 25 long years. Finally on Wednesday the court released him unconditionally. He had been charged with robbery and arrested in 1992.
After receiving the release order, Babul told Prothom Alo that the CID had arrested him from Demra in 1992 when he was just a boy. He had repeatedly told the police, lawyers and the court that he was innocent, but no one listened to him. His eyes welled up with tears as he told his tale.
On Wednesday, the special judge court no. 5 released five persons including Babul. The case file states that at 8:30 on the night of 21 August 1992, an unidentified group of three robbers raided a Comilla-bound bus along the Dhaka-Chittagong highway. They made off with Tk 9000 snatched from the passengers. Bus helper Nazrul Islam filed a case in this connection and on 15 December Demra police sub-inspector (SI) Ashraf Ali submitted a charge sheet in court against five persons including Babul.
Over the 24 years since the case was filed, the police brought only four of the 11 witnesses to court. Neither the complainant Nazrul, nor the investigating officer Ashraf turned up in the court.
In its verdict releasing Babul, the court stated that copies of the order for the plaintiff, for the judge who recorded the confession of the accused, and for the other witnesses to appear in court, were sent to the inspector general of police (IGP) and the senior secretary of the public administration ministry. However no initiative was taken to bring any of them to court. The court said in its verdict that the prosecution failed to prove the charges against the five accused, including Babul.
Babul related the events of his arrest, saying he used to live with his parents at Dolaipar in Demra. He was going to see a friend in Fatulla and was crossing the Demra bridge in a taxi. The police suddenly picked him up and took him on remand. After his arrest his parents would visit him in jail at the beginning, but later they stopped coming.
Babul comes from the village Baharnagar of Bancharampur in Brahmanbaria. His father was Anwar Hossain and mother Nilufar Begum. Babul says his father worked for the air force. He died in a road accident while Babul was in jail. His mother died in 1995. He hasn’t seen his brothers or sisters since. Babul couldn’t stop talking about his parents.
Speaking about Babul’s 25 years in jail without trial, Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik told Prothom Alo, “Did no one notice that a person was in jail for so long? An investigation must be made into the negligence for which he has been in jail for 25 years. The state must compensate Babul with a payment of Tk 200,000 for every wasted year of his life, that is, Tk 5 million in total.
Chairman of the national human rights commission Kazi Reazul Huq also sternly condemned this matter and told Prothom Alo that those responsible for the wrong done to Babul must be brought under the law and Babul must be compensated.
*The article originally published in Prothom Alo print edition is rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.