The government is set to free 53 convicted criminals, including top terror Tofail Ahmed alias Joseph. A committee formed by the home ministry has made the list as per the recommendations of the ministers and MPs, ministry sources said.
When asked why these top criminals are being freed, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told Prothom Alo that this provision is not applicable for controversial figures.
It is being done as per the law, but if anyone has any complaints, they will take that into consideration, the minister said.
As per Article 569 of the jail code, the government may set a criminal free after he has served two thirds of his jail term, provided that he has no more cases against him. And this does not need the approval of the president.
The committee initially recommended 297 names, but the home ministry brought that down to 53 after considering a number of issues, including the crime, age and duration of the sentence, said a senior officer of the ministry.
The list is now being sent to the law ministry for vetting. It will then be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Once the PM approves, they will be set free within a month, the official added.
Law minister Anisul Huq said this provision is for petty offences. When asked if top terrors can walk free, using of this loophole, he said, “No chance. No way is this article applicable for them.”
Top terror Joseph has 11 cases, including murder and arms related ones, against him. He was in the hospital for around 20 months despite not being ill. He was recently shifted to the Dhaka Central Jail after a Prothom Alo unearthed his stay at the hospital. However, the home ministry did recommend his name to be freed.
Jogesshor Gope is another name in the list. He was sentenced to life in prison for killing a sweetmeat businessman. However, his name has been recommended by Md Abu Zahir, an MP from Habiganj and the district Awami League president. Jogesshor is a brother of Habiganj assistant public prosecutor (APP) Jyotish Chandra Gope.
Sulekha Gope, sister of the murdered Shanto Gope, alleged that their life will be hell if her brother’s murder is freed.
Abbas Hawlader was sentenced to death for throwing acid on a schoolgirl at Baufal in Patuakhali, but the Supreme Court later handed him life in jail. Nizam Uddin, another criminal who was awarded life sentence, was freed over two years back. Now he has joined the ruling Awami League. The girl told Prothom Alo that she and her family will be in deep trouble if Abbas walks out of jail.
Madaripur top terror Nepulian Khondakar Nepu is in jail in a murder case. He has a number of other allegations, including extortion, against him as well. Shipping minister Shahjahan Khan has recommended for the release of Nepu, whose brother is a police officer.
Former chairman of National Human Rights Commission Mizanur Rahman said this provision has to be used with utmost cautiousness. Convicted killers or top terrors should not get away using this loophole, he added.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Quamrul Hassan.