Rab picks up Imran, frees him after 7hrs

Rab released Gonojagoron Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker last night around seven hours after picking him up from a rally called in protest against extrajudicial killing in the ongoing anti-narcotics drive.

After being interrogated, Imran was released at 11:00pm, Lt Col Emranul Hasan, commanding officer-of Rab-3, told The Daily Star.

Talking to this newspaper over the phone early today, Imran said Rab picked him up to interrogate him about the rally.

He said he would share details of the incident at a press conference scheduled for 11:00am today at Dhaka Reporters Unity.

Witnesses said activists of Gonojagoron Mancha, a platform which championed the call for maximum punishment for war criminals, were preparing to hold the rally in the capital’s Shahbagh around 4:00pm.

Activists of the platform said three Rab cars and a white microbus with a Rab sticker were parked in front of the National Museum.

A human chain by Bangladesh Chhatra Union was being formed at that time at the venue, causing a delay in the start of the Mancha programme.

As Imran reached the spot around 4:15pm, a team of plain-clothes Rab officials tried to force him into the white microbus.

A scuffle ensued between Rab officials and the mancha activists who tried to prevent the law enforcers from detaining Imran.

Eventually they took him away in the vehicle.

Contacted, Lt Col Emranul this newspaper that they arrested Imran on charges of “organising an unlawful gathering” and “creating obstacle to government work”.

Imran had not taken any permission for holding the gathering and when Rab officials asked everyone to leave, the activists harassed the officials, he claimed.

It was not the first time that Imran was asked to take permission for arranging a programme, said the CO.

Before yesterday’s rally, the members of the force charged baton on the protestors and chased them away towards Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, leaving at least seven injured.

Chhatra Union’s General Secretary Liton Nandi, Anik Roy, Deepak Sheel, Meem Arafat Manob and Foyjullah took primary treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said Bachchu Mia, in-charge of the police camp at the hospital.

Rab men use batons to disperse protesters, mostly activists of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, while picking up Imran H Sarker from Shahbagh. The activists gathered there yesterday afternoon to demonstrate against extrajudicial killings during the law enforcers’ crackdown on drugs. Photo: Collected

Imran, an online activist, rose to prominence as the spokesperson of the platform that spearheaded the “Shahbagh Movement” on February 5, 2013, demanding capital punishment for Abdul Quader Mollah and others convicted of war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh.

Later, rifts developed among the members of the movement over several issues.

Imran has also on occasions criticised the government over the last few years, drawing the ire of several top ruling party leaders and Chhatra League men.

BCL leader Golam Rabbani filed a case against the Mancha on May 31 last year, accusing Imran of giving defamatory slogans against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on May 27 over the removal of the statue of Lady Justice from the Supreme Court premises.

Lt Col Emranul said police asked the Mancha to take permission for holding a similar programme last Sunday.

“As they once again arranged the same kind of programme without having any permission and harassed Rab members, we arrested him [Imran],” he said.

Asked about taking action at the time, Emranul said legal action would be taken against him as per the law after the interrogation was complete.

Earlier on Sunday, police foiled Gonojagoron Mancha’s protest programme against the ongoing “shootout” spree that has left at least 138 people dead in the last 22 days.