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219 expats incarcerated for what?

  • Published at 02:40 pm July 24th, 2020
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On July 5, they were sent to jail after police apprehended them under Section 54

Arrested under Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrCP), 219 Bangladeshi expatriates deported from three Middle East countries, are still incarcerated without any specific reason.

Although police brought allegations of "tarnishing the image of Bangladesh" against the expatriates as a cause for arrest, the law enforcement agency is reluctant to talk openly over the issue.

219 migrants -- 141 from Kuwait, 39 from Qatar, and 39 from Bahrain -- returned to Bangladesh weeks ago after they served various degrees of imprisonment in those countries.

The Bangladesh embassies in those countries stated that the expatriates received a state pardon due to coronavirus pandemic. Most of them were serving jail for narcotics charges, a very few on murder charges, several for being undocumented, and misusing telecom services, according to media reports.

Upon their arrival in Dhaka, the migrants were kept in a quarantine centre in Diabari area for 14 days.

After expiry of the quarantine period, the law enforcement agency apprehended them exercising its authority under the Section 54 following a general diary filed by Turag police.

Police said they arrested the expatriates "taking permission from the higher authorities" as they got no "satisfactory answer" during interrogation.

However, identities of the higher authorities were not cleared. 

Police said the deportees, in the quarantine centre, were hatching a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the government by resorting to destructive or anti-state activities.

On July 5, a Dhaka court sent all the arrested to jail.

On July 12, it instructed the police to submit a probe report within 10 days.

Families see no reason for arrest in Bangladesh

Most of the families said the expatriates had their visas expired though a few have valid visas so far. They claimed most of the inmates had no other criminal record abroad.

They also said the returnees have no record of criminal activities in Bangladesh as well, and thus they find no reason for the arrests.

A resident of Comilla, Mohammad Rasel, 29, went to Bahrain two years ago and his free visa expired a few months back.

Rasel was working as a bricklayer and left the job as he was being paid less than what was committed by his owner, said Minu Ara Begum, wife of Rasel.

"The previous owner filed a case against him," she said, adding that he was arrested by Bahrain police later and kept in prison for 10 days.

Another expatriate Saiful was arrested at the airport in Bahrain despite having visas.

Staying in Bangladesh for a month on leave, he went back to the country and was caught for carrying some painkillers for his father, who was also living in Bahrain, said Shah Alam, uncle of Saiful.

A case was filed against him for this.

"We sent the doctor's prescription [to Bahrain]. Later he was released after six months of imprisonment in Bahrain," said Shah Alam.

Khokhon Mia's visa expired two years ago and he was involved in the narcotics business in Bahrain.

He was released after serving two years in jail, said his wife Sumi Akter.

There is also an exception. 

Expatriate Jasim Uddin, from Moulvibazar, was not jailed abroad, but has been arrested in Bangladesh.

"We actually do not know why he was caught [in Dhaka]," said Wasid Mia, younger brother of Jasim.

Police unwilling to disclose any information

Most of the police officials avoided the matter and did not want to talk on the issue of the expatriates' arrest.

"As investigation is going on, nothing could be disclosed in this stage," said Nurul Muttakin, officer-in-charge (OC) of Turag police station.

When asked, Assistant Inspector General (AIG-media) Md Sohel Rana of police headquarters said: "Whatever has been done, nothing was done outside the law."

Violation of law

Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, also a panel lawyer of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (Blast), said the arrest of the expatriates and subsequent incarcerations are "totally illegal."

"It is obviously a violation of rules," he said while talking to Dhaka Tribune.

The police did not heed to the High Court judgement delivered in 2003 over Section 54 that allowed the police to arrest anybody with an order from a magistrate and a warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrCP), he said.

In the judgement, the High Court also set 15 guidelines with regard to exercise of powers of arrest and remand, the lawyer continued.

Police have to note down the specific reason for its suspicion against the accused in the diary, he said, adding that magistrates also need to see the diary.

"[In the incident of expatriates' arrest and sending them to jail] police should be held responsible as the whole process is illegal."

Barrister Jyotirmoy said it is also possible to bring the migrants, who committed crime abroad, to book under Section 188 of CrPC.

"In this regard, sanction from the Home Ministry is required, and accordingly a case has to be lodged."

He said there is a constitutional violation in their apprehension as Article 32 stipulates "No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law."

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