An apparently rare scene surfaced at a Cox's Bazar court Wednesday over taking three men into custody. For police, they are the witnesses who will testify that police shot Major (Retd) Sinha Mohammad Rashed Khan in self-defence.
But according to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), they were directly or indirectly involved in Sinha murder by police on Cox's Bazar Marine Drive.
Police and RAB applied to the court at the same time for taking the three into their respective custody. The court, however, allowed RAB – the investigating agency of the Sinha killing case – to grill the men for seven days each, rejecting the police's plea.
The three – Nurul Amin, Nizam Uddin and Mohammad Ayas – were picked up by RAB personnel in plainclothes on Monday afternoon from their Teknaf residences.
One of the family members in the evening subsequently showed up at Teknaf Police Station, asking for the whereabouts of the apprehended. Police then denied any detention.
That night police appeared at the residences of the three persons, broke into the rooms and took signs of the family members on blank papers.
Then Teknaf police lodged an abduction case against unknown persons Tuesday. Hours after, RAB shown the three men arrested in the murder case filed by Sinha's family against police.
'Sign here if you want your son back'
Khaleda Begum, mother of Nurul Amin, was narrating the "midnight mayhem" police carried out. They told her to sign on blank papers, and threatened if she did not do it, she might not see her son alive again.
Wife of Nizam Uddin – the second accused of RAB – Shaheda Begum also gave a similar account of police action. She said police broke into her room at around 2:30am on Monday night asking her to go to the OC's office.
The wife was told to lodge a police complaint that her husband has been abducted.
Mohammad Ayash's brother Md Mubarak also said the police arrived at their residence around 3am and took signatures on blank paper.
On Tuesday morning, police picked up Nurul Amin's mother Khaleda Begum and took her to Teknaf Police Station. She said she was forced to file the abduction case.
However, newly appointed Teknaf Police OC Abul Faisal categorically denied the allegations. The OC who signed the First Information Report (FIR) of the case said nothing happened like they were claiming.
"Those allegations are not true," he added.
Amid the ongoing criticisms and countrywide outrage over police actions on Cox's Bazar Marine Drive in the name of anti-narcotics raids and killing of Sinha, RAB officials said the abduction case is another plot hatched by police.
"We are the investigating agency. But police are visiting people and bothering them at midnight. They are sniffing around with bad intentions, maybe to save the crooked policemen," a RAB official at Cox's Bazar said on condition of anonymity.
'We saw nothing'
Before getting arrested, Nurul Amin – one of the police witnesses – said he neither saw anything nor knew the shooting took place on the Marine Drive on the night of July 31.
During an interview with a TV channel, he claimed police after filing the case informed him that he had been made a witness in it.
Another witness of police case Mohammad Ayas also claimed the same. They repeatedly asked the TV reporter to protect them from harassment.
However, RAB said the trio had helped police shoot Sinha. One of them made a fake announcement from a local mosque that robbers had come down to the village from the hills in the dark – an attempt to mislead the villagers about Sinha and his co-traveller Sifat, who were then on their way back to Cox's Bazar from Teknaf.
Another man had been maintaining communications with Inspector Liakat – the police officer who shot Sinha, while the third one is a community police member.
According to RAB, all three had their different roles in the killing.
'Police activities might mislead RAB investigation'
Lawyer Md Mostafa, prosecutor of the Sinha murder case, told The Business Standard that police can go anywhere anytime.
"But when RAB takes over the investigation, they should not harass anyone related to the case. I think what the police did to the three witnesses was a clear violation of code of conduct. If not stopped, such activities might mislead the investigation," he added.
In the meantime, AKM Zakaria, the lawyer for the three men, said that they appeared just after the court had allowed RAB the remand.
"I cannot make any comment over police action. I just appealed before the court to send them to police custody," he added.