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Journalist in hiding following assault on home

(Media Watch/IFEX) - Imran Hossain, correspondent for the Rajshahi-based daily "Sonar Desh" in Tanore upazila, is in hiding in order to avoid arrest following an extortion case filed against him. Police ransacked his home and assaulted his wife.

The officer-in-charge (OC) of the Tanore Police Station was dismissed for his responsibility in the raid on the house of the journalist on Thursday 14 July 2011. Hours before his removal, Tanore police recorded an extortion case against Imran Hossain. Rajshahi is the northern Divisional town of Bangladesh.

The assault on the journalist came after his report on corruption in the local police administration was published on 13 July in the daily "Sonar Desh".

OC Azizur Rahman Sarker was barred from accessing the scene after he sent policemen to raid Hossain's house, said SM Rokon Uddin, district superintendent of police. Sarker was warned following his attack on the journalist and the Additional SP Emran Ali was asked to investigate the matter, added the SP.

Hossain's wife Tahmina Yasmin reported that six policemen led by Sub-Inspector M Solaiman came to their house around 1:00am on 14 July. As it was the dead of night and Hossain was not at home, she refused to open the door. "When they started banging on the door with rifle butts, my father-in-law let them enter the house." The policemen ransacked the house but did not say why they were doing so, said Yasmin. "My six-year-old son was sleeping and they [policemen] pulled the bed in such a way that my child was about to fall." Yasmin's child Nagib Mahfuz was running a temperature as the police activities sent him into a panic.

Contacted, SI M Solaiman refuted the allegations of ransacking and hurling abuse. He said he went to the house as he was appointed as investigating officer of the extortion case against Hossain.

The plaintiff in the case is Delwar Hossain, owner of a mobile customer care shop located in front of the police station. In the case statement, he alleged that Hossain demanded a Tk 20,000 (approx. US$270) toll from him on 11 July. He also claimed that Hossain bought a computer table from him for Tk 10,000 (approx. US$130) six months prior but later refused to pay for the table.

Asked why he filed the case so late, Delwar said he used to give Hossain Tk 100 to Tk 2,000 (approx. US$1 to $25) at different times as he used to threaten to write against him. "When he wrote about me, I lodged the case."

Hossain, however, said Delwar's allegations are baseless and fabricated and came after the report's publication on Wednesday 13 July.

Akbarul Hasan Millat, "Sonar Desh"'s executive editor, said that Hossain in his report mentioned that the OC employed some middlemen across the upazila for collecting bribes. Without naming the person, the report says a mobile businessman of the Thana Mor is one of the main middlemen. Millat said the report alludes to Delwar.

In the meantime different journalists' organisations in Rajshahi held protest programmes on 16 July demanding punishment of the responsible police officials for assaulting journalist Imran Hossain and ransacking his house. They also demanded the withdrawal of the "false" extortion case against him. The journalist remains in hiding to avoid arrest.

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