Tuesday, December 11, 2007

4 RU teachers freed from jail

In the face of a rising public demand, the government finally freed the four convicted teachers of Rajshahi University from Rajshahi Central Jail yesterday afternoon.

The government claimed that the release came following a petition of mercy to the president from the convicted teachers. But the freed teachers rejected the government claim saying they had not petitioned the president for mercy.

Moloy Kumar Bhoumik of the management department, and Dulal Chandra Biswas, Sayed Selim Reza Newton and Abdullah Al Mamun of the mass communications department came out of the jail around 3.45pm.

Maj Hafizur Rahman Mollah, deputy inspector general (DIG) of prisons in Rajshahi division, told The Daily Star that the teachers were released following a clemency for them from the president.

"We [the jail authorities] received the president's faxed order through the home ministry at 3.08pm and the teachers were released at 3.40pm after necessary confirmation and formalities."

"Powered by Article no 49 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, the sentence of imprisonment and monitory fines of the four teachers were pardoned. If there is no other accusation against them, their immediate release is ordered," the DIG prisons quoted the presidential order as saying.

Last Tuesday a Rajshahi court sentenced the teachers to two years rigorous imprisonment, and fined them Tk 1,000 each, in default of which each of them was to spend one more month of rigorous imprisonment, for violating the Emergency Power Rules (EPR) by bringing out a silent procession on the campus on August 21.

President's Secretary M Serajul Islam told journalists that President Iajuddin Ahmed at 12:35pm approved the clemency petitions filed by the wives of the teachers.

In an instant reaction to the presidential mercy, Law Adviser Mainul Hosein told reporters that following the arrests and sentencing of the four teachers, by law they may not keep their teaching jobs.

The president however might make a special exception allowing them to retain their posts, the law adviser added.

Asked whether the freed teachers were innocent all along, Mainul said, "The court will decide that, not the president."

"The appeals of the RU teachers for pardon were forwarded to the president's office after taking care of the legal process involved," Mainul said.

"The government doesn't at all intend to detain university teachers. Since there were cases filed against them, the government had to clear them legally after their appeal to the government for absolving them of the charges," the law adviser said.

Clockwise: Rajshahi University teachers Moloy Kumar Bhoumik,
Dulal Chandra Biswas, Abdullah Al Mamun and Selim Reza Newton walk out of prison as they were released from Rajshahi Central Jail yesterday. Photo: STAR

As news of the presidential clemency reached Rajshahi in the morning, family members of the detained teachers, their relatives, and journalists started gathering at the jail gate from 10:00am.

But the jail authorities told the families that they had yet to receive any information regarding the mercy.

As the number of people at the jail gate was increasing, the authorities deployed extra forces including detective branch personnel in and around the jail compound.

By 12:00pm, hundreds of students and teachers from Rajshahi University were at the jail gate and around 2:00pm more students from the management and mass communications departments joined the crowd.

Hundreds of other students of the departments gathered in front of their departments boycotting their classes and examinations, and celebrated the freedom of their teachers, dancing to the beats of patriotic songs.

Kolpona Roy, the eldest sister of Moloy Kumar Bhoumik, was also waiting in the crowd at the jail gate since morning, who was frequently breaking down in emotional outbursts, while Mamun's wife Udicha Islam was running back and forth from the jail gate to the waiting crowd as rumours were springing every few minutes that the jailed teachers were about to walk out that gate.

"What a fate my brother had!" exclaimed Moloy's sister with tears rolling down her cheeks, "He returned home from the liberation war in 1971 and today he is being freed from a jail."

"Moloy went to the war at the age of 14. As he was absent and we were not getting any news of him, we thought he might have been killed."

"But on December 10 of 1971 he surprised us all by returning home, and soon he was hurrying to go back to the front again, but before he could do that we won the war."

On December 10, 2007, Moloy again suddenly appeared through the jail gate with his three just freed colleagues around 3.45pm, with yet another pleasant homecoming.

The four freed teachers hugged their wives and other family members as they were welcomed by the waiting crowd.

Their colleagues and students received them at the jail gate with flowers, some of whom broke down in tears embracing the freed teachers.

Policemen on guard there were visibly baffled by the huge rush of well-wishers of the freed teachers as they walked out of the jail compound.

Police as well as the RU authority offered the freed teachers rides home on their vehicles. But the teachers declined, opting to go to the university campus with their students and colleagues on rickshaws.

The detective branch escorted the released teachers until they all got home.

The freed teachers went to the grave of Dr Mohammad Samsuzzoha, the first martyred academic in the country, and observed a minute of silence honouring his memories, after placing wreaths at the grave.

They also visited Sabash Bangladesh, a liberation war memorial, and showed respect to the martyrs of the liberation war by observing a minute of silence there.

Moloy Kumar Bhoumik and Dulal Chandra Biswas addressed the crowd there. They expressed their gratitude to all their colleagues, students, lawyers, and others who had demanded their release.

"We are happy that the government showed its goodwill and rational approach towards us...but some of our colleagues of Rajshahi and Dhaka universities are still suffering in jails, we hope, the government will show the same compassion towards them also", Bhoumik said coming out of the jail.

"Our release is of no value until our colleagues are also freed", he said.

Later at the grave of Shamsuzzoha, Bhoumik told journalists, "We heard the media is saying that we had sought presidential clemency."

"I want to make it clear that we never sought any mercy from anyone. If anybody claims so, he should show the proof. If the claim comes from the government then it is an insult to the teaching community."

"If the government claims that we sought mercy, they must prove it. We are ready to go to jail again if necessary. It is a matter of the teaching community's prestige."

Talking on the matter of presidential clemency, Sayed Selim Reza Newton also expressed his astonishment. Rejecting the government's claim he said, "There was no question of mercy petitions. Neither we nor our wives submitted any petition to the government for mercy."

"We are disappointed at the government's claim. We suffered in jail long enough because we didn't want to seek mercy. We could have been freed much earlier if we had sought mercy."

Dulal Chandra Biswas thanked the president for his 'voluntary initiative'. "We thank him for his voluntary move of ordering the mercy. It was possible only for the efforts of all the people including our colleagues and students."

Abdullah Al Mamun also thanked the government and expressed his gratitude to all who demanded their release.

Meanwhile, UNB reported, RU Vice-chancellor Dr M Altaf Hossain said, "I am very much happy, as my four colleagues were set free from jail," adding that they were released as per the law and not under any pressure or threat.

Proctor Dr Enamul Haque also expressed his happiness over the release of the four teachers and said peaceful atmosphere will now return to the campus.

He expressed his gratitude to the president for signing the mercy, exonerating four of their university teachers, convicted of breaking the emergency rules amid campus violence.

Copy of the letter that wives of the freed teachers said to have been sent to the CA promting mercy of the President.

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