One of the top criminals of the country, Tofail Ahmed Joseph, has been in hospital for a stretch of 20 months. This convict, supposed to be serving a life sentence, is not known to be suffering from any serious ailment. The hospital papers merely state he has ‘back pain’.
This ‘VIP patient’ is living in the comfort of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) hospital, spending the day gossiping with friends who visit him freely.
He was accused of murder committed in 1999 and sentenced to death. The high court upheld this sentence. Later the Appellate Division commuted this to life sentence. There is 20 years nine months left of his prison term and the scheduled date of his release is 24 January 2039.
The physicians and prison authorities are not happy that this criminal is simply spending months on end in hospital. However, the hospital authorities are mysteriously not releasing him. When the physicians as well as the prison authorities were questioned why he was not being released, they had the same reply, “You know very well.”
When asked, BSMMU director (hospital) Abdullah-al-Harun told Prothom Alo, “That’s my question too, but there is nothing I can do unless the medical board instructs me.”
Joseph is in a prison cell on the second floor of the hospital. When the prison guard there was approached, he asked for a business card and said, “Give me your name on a piece of paper, then go and wait downstairs at a distance from the prison cell so sir can see you. If he recognises you, he will give permission for you to come up.”
This correspondent went down and stood as told. Another prison guard from upstairs called out, “Do you want to meet Joseph sir?” Receiving an affirmative reply, he said to wait. Then Joseph took a quick peek out of the window. The guard appeared again, saying, “Sir doesn’t recognise you and so you can’t meet him.”
According to Dhaka Central Jail records, Joseph was brought to the BSMMU prison cell with back pains on 13 September 2015. He has been there since. He is under the treatment of the neurology department’s professor Abu Nasar Rizvi. When asked about the Joseph’s ailments, he told Prothom Alo, “He has back pain and is undergoing physiotherapy. If it doesn’t improve, he will need an operation.”
Back in June last year the physicians had given similar statements. When asked why he hadn’t then been operated in over a year, the physician replied, “He will be, soon.”
Jailor of Dhaka Central Jail, Mahbubul Islam, told Prothom Alo, “The entire matter depends on the hospital authorities. We can’t bring him back unless they tell us to.”
Sources within the hospital, on condition of anonymity, said that when wealthy and powerful persons are convicted, they stay in the hospital as they enjoy much more benefits here than in jail.
In June last year Joseph’s mother appealed for his sentence to be dropped and the law ministry backed her appeal. The home ministry too had a similar recommendation. The prime minister’s office, however, has not responded so far. Joseph’s family are once again trying for his exemption from the sentence.
Joseph was a Chhatra League leader of Mohammedpur in the capital city. He entered politics under the guidance of his elder brother Harris Ahmed. He later joined top terror Subrata Bain’s criminal ‘Seven Star’ gang. He used the Seven Star gang and the Five Star gang to exert his power in the city. That is how he became one of the top terrors of the country.
On 7 May 1996 he was accused in the murder of businessman Mustafizur Rahman in Mohammedpur. On 25 April 2004 the Speedy Trial Tribunal sentenced him to death. He then appealed against the sentence. On 20 September 2007 the high court upheld the sentence. He also faces a 12-year prison sentence in an arms case.
*The article originally came up in Prothom Alo print edition is rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir