The extortion case against prominent road safety campaigner Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury has three witnesses, one of whom is now saying he was made a witness without his knowledge. But more intriguingly, their statements included in the charge sheet are exactly the same — every line, every word and even every punctuation of them.
Each statement has exactly 78 words and 13 lines in the exact same order, although two investigating officers of Mirpur Police Station “recorded” these statements on different dates since the case was filed last year.
Sub-inspector Bazlur Rahman, the first investigating officer, recorded the statement of the prime witness, Jahangir Hossain. This statement bears no date. The statements of the two other witnesses were recorded by Sarwar Jahan, another SI, on December 25 last year and January 21 this year.
While police defended this apparently copy-paste job, Jahangir told The Daily Star yesterday that he came to know about his being a witness only recently.
Also, none of the three “witnesses” could be found in the addresses mentioned in the charge sheet, raising question about the police investigation.
Mozammel denies the extortion charges and says he is a victim of conspiracy by a vested quarter who “instigated the government against him” to protect their own narrow interest.
“We work for the welfare of the passengers and the government does not want any commuter getting harmed either,” he told this paper yesterday.
Mozammel is now on bail.
Established in 2006, Jatri Kalyan Samity came under severe criticism by Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on several occasions. Other lawmakers also castigated the Samity’s reports on road accidents, terming those “false and motivated”. They also raised questions about Mozammel’s political affiliation.
In June last year, the road transport and bridges ministry rejected a Samity report that said the number of road accidents and deaths saw a sharp rise during the Eid-ul-Fitr rush. The ministry also said the Samity was not a registered organisation and that it dished out “confusing information” on several occasions.
The motive behind the extortion charges against Mozammel came under the scanner soon after the case was filed on September 4 last year.
The complainant of the case, Md Dulal, told the media at the time that he was not aware of the case. He said he only signed on a piece of paper without knowing what was written on it. His wife has confirmed that Dulal cannot read or write.
According to the case statement, Mozammel demanded Tk 2 lakh from Dulal, a transport worker in the capital’s Mirpur, in extortion money every month.
Pressured and threatened, Dulal gave Mozammel Tk 10,000 in front of Sony Cinema Hall in Mirpur on September 3 last year, it alleges.
After the case was filed, Dulal told journalists that the Mirpur Zoo unit president and secretary of Bus-Minibus Sramik Committee were with him when the case was filed.
Dulal’s wife Nasima had said that the president and the secretary asked her husband to sign on a paper and he complied. They did not even read out the statement for him to understand what was on the paper, she claimed.
The case statement has Dulal’s address wrong as well, indicating how little he was involved when the case was filed. In the case statement, his address is: house-9, road-18 in Gudaraghat under Shah Ali Police Station. But at the time, he used to live at house-7, road-22, which is about one kilometre away.
The two other witnesses are Bappi Hossain and Al Mamun.
According to the charge sheet, Jahangir, the number one witness, and Mamun live at Fatema Tower on road-7 in Mirpur-1. But Faruk, the house caretaker for five years, confirmed to The Daily Star that no one named Jahangir ever lived in that house. And there is a man named Mamun living in the house, but he is about 25, more than 20 years younger than Mamun the witness.
The address of Bappi, the other witness, is: house-44, road-6 in Mirpur-1, according to the charge sheet. However, the caretaker of this house as well as tenants said there was no one named Bappi in that building.
Contacted by phone, Jahangir said, “A transport leader told me that I had to be a witness in a case with Mirpur police. When I asked why, he told me that they have already made me a witness. Then I told them it is alright.”
Asked if he knew anything about the case, he said, “I was made a witness in a case against a man whose name is something like Mozammel or something,” he said.
On whether he knows what Mozammel did, he said, “I am totally unaware.”
Another witness, Bappi Hossain, could not recall his statement at first. He then sought to see his statement in the case record. After being read out, he said it was his statement.
He was flanked by around 15 transport leaders, including the president and the general secretary of Mirpur Zoo road unit Bus-Minibus Sramik Committee.
When this paper asked Bappi about the wrong address, Delwar Hossain Khan, general secretary of the committee, intervened. He said it was his address, where the other witnesses came over sometimes. “They mentioned my address so that people can find it easily.”
At the time of departure, a transport leader offered Tk 1,000 to one of these reporters, which he refused to accept.
Asked about Dulal’s statement in the media that he was in the dark about filing any case, SI Sarwar Jahan said the complainant did not say anything like that to police.
About the wrong addresses, he said the witnesses may have lived in those places in the past and then moved elsewhere.
He also defended the identical statements of the witnesses, saying, “Statements of witnesses in a case will be more or less the same, because they are talking about the same incident.”
But he could not explain how every line, every word and every punctuation of three statements could be in the exact same order.