TESTIMONY TO TERROR SPONSORED BY STATE
The dreadful memories of captivity still send shudder down his spine. Police tortured Joj Mia in custody to make him confess to a crime he did not commit.
He now tries hard to forget the terrifying ordeal but those memories still haunt him.
“My days in prison were a nightmare. I see the torture scenes often in my dreams,” said Joj Mia, who was implicated in the sensational August 21 grenade attack case.
Another such victim, Shaibal Saha Partha, is in no better state.
He momentarily loses his grip on reality whenever he has flashbacks of the physical and mental torture police had inflicted on him.
Partha wants to rid himself of those memories.
“But I don’t know whether I will be able to do it at all. The horrifying memories flash through my mind,” he said.
Both Joj Mia and Partho talked to The Daily Star recently.
As part of a plan to save the actual culprits of the August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital in 2004, police arrested Joj Mia and Partha, and applied tricks to make them admit to crimes they didn’t commit.
Joj Mia capitulated, and with the words put in his mouth by police, he made a confessional statement to a magistrate naming some top criminals in connection with the grisly grenade attack that left 24 people dead and more than 300 injured.
The then leader of the opposition, Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, who was addressing the rally, survived the attack but suffered injuries in her ears.
Joj Mia and Partha were accused in the grenade attack case. They were later acquitted of the charges after an investigation found that several top leaders of the then BNP government, some government officials and militants were involved in the deadly attack.
Raiding his Senbagh house in Noakhali, police arrested Joj Mia on June 10, 2005 as part of a clandestine plan to make him a scapegoat in the sensational case.
Joj Mia, who was initially clueless about the reason behind his arrest, was first taken to Senbagh police station.
Later, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials brought him to the capital and tortured him.
“You threw grenades at the Awami League rally,” Joj Mia quoted CID official Abdur Rashid, the then investigating officer in the case, as saying.
Joj Mia, who was 20 when the incident took place, said he was surprised at the accusation of his involvement in the attack, and told the officer that he knew nothing about it.
“I was at my Senbagh home on the day of the incident. I saw it on television at a tea stall,” he said.
Joj Mia was later placed on remand for days. “During the remand, CID officials tortured me and also lured me into confessing to the crime.
“They told me that if I agreed to become an approver, I would be sent abroad, and they would bear all the expenses of my family,” he said.
Police then started giving a small amount of money to his mother every month. As they stopped it after six months, Joj Mia’s family disclosed the whole thing to the media, detailing how the CID tried to feed the media with a made-up story about the grenade attack.
“CID officials threatened to kill me in ‘crossfire’ if I refused to follow their instructions,” he said.
“I would have preferred to get killed in ‘crossfire’ if I had known that they were going to make me a scapegoat in such a sensational case,” Joj Mia told this correspondent over the phone.
Joj Mia, who now works as a driver for a car rental company, appealed to the government to arrange a public job for him.
“When I was in jail, my mother had to sell our eight decimals of land and other properties. Now I am struggling to run the family,” he said, adding that he didn’t have enough money to marry off his sister.
Police arrested Partha from his sister’s Elephant Road house on August 26, four days after the grisly grenade attack, on suspicion of sending an email with threats to assassinate Hasina.
He was later implicated in two cases — one for giving death threat and the other over the grenade attack. On March 15, 2005, the High Court granted him ad-interim bail in the cases.
Partha, who just returned home after completing MBA from an Indian university, went to Hearnet Cyber Cafe on Elephant Road to submit his curriculum vitae to different organisations for a job a couple of days before his arrest.
“Police kept me blindfolded for seven consecutive days,” he said.
“I still do not know where they had kept me.
“They poured water into my nose and mouth time and again. I felt my breathing would stop any moment and I would die,” said Partha, who now works at a private organisation.
Police also lured him into making a confession, saying if he admitted to his involvement in the grenade attack, they would send him to a European country and arrange citizenship for him.
“I repeatedly told them that I knew nothing about it, but they tortured me even more.
“I wouldn’t wish such terrible ordeal even on my worst enemy,” said Partha.
On August 23, 2004, unknown persons sent an email to Bangla daily Prothom Alo threatening to assassinate Hasina. The CID arrested Partha on suspicion four days later.
He was produced before court on August 30, a day after the CID had filed a case over the death threat.
On September 14 that year, Partha was shown arrested in the August 21 grenade attack case.
AUGUST 21, 2015