Friday, February 25, 2005

BANGLADESH: Release of Anup Chetia unlikely despite expiry of jail term [2 NEWS CLIPPINGS]

According to a source in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Chetia will be kept at the Dhaka Central Jail in preventive detention on security grounds. He has already submitted two separate petitions to the government — one seeking political asylum and another for his deportation to any country other than India, where he is wanted as a leader of the separatist movement, said the source. Another petition, which he filed on September 3, 1998 seeking political asylum, is also pending before the government.


1. Release of Anup Chetia unlikely despite expiry of jail term
SHAHIDUZZAMAN

Leader of the United Liberation Front of Assam, Anup Chetia, is not likely to be released soon although his term of imprisonment expired Thursday.

According to a source in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Chetia will be kept at the Dhaka Central Jail in preventive detention on security grounds.

He has already submitted two separate petitions to the government — one seeking political asylum and another for his deportation to any country other than India, where he is wanted as a leader of the separatist movement, said the source.

Another petition, which he filed on September 3, 1998 seeking political asylum, is also pending before the government.

The government, however, is yet to decide how to dispose of any of the petitions, said the source.

Meanwhile, the High Court on August 23, 2003 issued a rule nisi on the government to show cause within four weeks why it would not be directed to dispose of the petition for political asylum filed by Chetia and two of his party men.

The court also directed the government to keep them in safe custody till disposal of the rule nisi instead of releasing them after completion of their imprisonment term.

The court came up with the order after hearing a writ petition filed by Manobadhikar Bastobayon Sangstha, a human rights organisation.

Chetia, Lakshmi Prasad Goswami and Babul Sharma were arrested on January 1, 1998. They were sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and another six months in default of paying a fine of Tk 10,000 under the Special Powers Act 1974. They were also convicted in two other cases under the Foreigners Act and the Passport Act.

They submitted three petitions to the home secretary on September 3, 1998 for political asylum, which are yet to be disposed of.

On the other hand, India has been pressuring the government of Bangladesh to hand over Chetia, Goswami and Sharma since their arrest.

India has been pressuring the government to hand over 25 of their separatist leaders including the above mentioned three, who are, according to India’s claim, in the prisons of Bangladesh or are living in the country, before the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

At the bilateral meeting of the home secretaries, held in 2004, when India came up with the demand, Bangladesh also demanded extradition of Bangasena leader Kalidas Baidya, Beer Banga Hindu Prajatantra leader Shakti Sen, Bangladesh Udbastu Mancha leader Upen Biswas and Bangladesh Udbastu Unnayan Parishad leader Bimal Majumder, who are involved in anti-Bangladesh activities, said a highly placed source in the government.

Moreover, Bangladesh is refusing to meet the Indian demand, as there is no extradition treaty between the two countries, said the source.

India asked Bangladesh to sign an extradition treaty with her before the SAARC summit, and the Indian government sent a draft of the proposed treaty to the Bangladesh government in 2004, mentioned the source.

During hearing of the writ petition in 2003, arguing for Chetia, Goswami and Sharma, their counsel Sigma Huda told the court that their lives were under threat. If they are released from jail on completion of their sentences, they may even be killed, she argued.

She said that those three persons should be kept in safe custody till disposal of their petitions for political asylum and the petitions should be disposed of rapidly.

Replying to the court’s query, the attorney general, AF Hassan Ariff, said it was the discretion of the court to consider the petition. Those who seek political asylum are no more citizens of their country or of the country in which they seek asylum, he added.

The court sought legal interpretation from a senior advocate, Khan Saifur Rahman, who was present.

He said the application for asylum evidently proved that lives of those persons were not secure.

They were tried under the Foreigners Act and Special Powers Act and were serving their sentences, so they cannot be deprived of their human rights on the same ground, he added.


2. Anup Chetia's jail term ends today

The founding general secretary and commander in chief of arms wing of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) Anup Chetia is scheduled to be freed today on expiry of his seven years and three months imprisonment term.

But he may not be released as two writ petitions one regarding to life security and other for political asylum - are now pending with the High Court, his lawyer Advocate Elina Khan told the news agency yesterday.

"Unless these two petitions are not disposed, he would be in the custody as his life is under threat," Elina added.

Meanwhile, when a journalist asked Foreign Secretary Shamsher M Chowdhury at a press briefing at Foreign Ministry in the evening about Chetia, Chowdhury said he will not make any comment terming the matter as a sub-judice.

A court sentenced the Indian separatist leader to seven years in jail for illegally entering Bangladesh, illegal possession of a satellite phone and several other charges.

Chetia, whose real name is Golap Baruah, was in jail since his arrest in Dhaka in 1997 from Shyamoli area.