DEEPAK ACHARJEE with SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS
In blatant violation of the rules for prisoners, the authorities of the Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) have kept a prisoner (Prisoner No. 670/16), held on charges of drug smuggling, in its VIP cabin for six months instead of its prison ward, disclosed sources in the home ministry and the department of prisons.
This VIP prisoner is Nur Mohammad, owner of Khan Jahan Ali Limited in Chittagong, who was arrested on charges of importing liquid cocaine under the pretext of importing sunflower oil.
The matter came to light in an intelligence report that was sent to the home ministry for necessary steps in this respect, the sources added.
The home ministry, on January 4, sent a letter to the secretary of the health ministry, asking him to take punitive action against the hospital officials involved in the malpractice, but the health ministry is yet to take any steps in this respect, according to the sources.
According to the report, CMCH deputy director (DD) Dr Mohammad Didarul Islam, CMCH assistant director Zaman Mostafa Chowdhury and the health secretary of Chittagong Metropolitan Awami League, Dr Faisal Iqbal Chowdhury, were allegedly helping the prisoner stay in the VIP Cabin No. 22 of Ward No. 29 of the hospital from May 14 last year instead of the prison ward.
The report says Nur Mohammad was taken to the VIP cabin of the hospital for specialised treatment of ‘bleeding haemorrhoids and acute retention of urine, not responding to treatment H/O DM/LBP and naturopathic HTN’.
In the report, the intelligence agency mentioned that there was no provision in the jail code for keeping the prisoner in a VIP cabin for treatment.
“In lieu of illegal benefits, Dr Mohammad Didarul Islam, Zaman Mostafa Chowdhury and Dr Faisal Iqbal Chowdhury have arranged his stay in the VIP cabin so that he can enjoy all the amenities,” the report added.
CMCH director Brig. Gen. Md Jalal Uddin told The Independent that they have shifted prisoner Nur Mohammad to the VIP cabin from the prison ward, as per the doctor’s recommendation.
“He (Nur Mohammad) was staying at the cabin (No. 22 of Ward No. 29) for a long time for better treatment. He was later released from the hospital,” he said.
When asked whether it was a violation of prisoners’ rules in shifting Nur Mohammad from the prison ward to the VIP cabin, the CMCH director replied, “I don’t know whether it is permitted by the prisoners’ rules or not.”
Brig. Gen. Jalal disclosed that the jail authorities wanted to know about Nur Mohammad’s condition several times when he was in the hospital cabin.
Talking to this correspondent, Chittagong Central Jail superintendent of police Iqbal Kabir Chowdhury said they had asked the CMCH to provide treatment to prisoner Nur Mohammad in its prison ward, not in the hospital’s VIP cabin.
“But the hospital authorities did not entertain the request to shift the prisoner Nur Mohammad from the VIP cabin to the prison ward of the hospital,” he said.
“The prisoner Nur Mohammad has been sent back to the prison of the Chittagong Central Jail after treatment in a VIP cabin of the CMCS recently,” he added. Allegations have been levelled that three doctors of CMCH helped Nur Mohammad stay at CMCH.
One of the accused doctors, Dr Didarul Islam, deputy director of CMCH, denied the allegations. “I am not involved in it. I don’t allocate cabins in our ward, my duty is to realise the money for staying in cabins. However, when we came to know that the cabin had been improperly allocated to him, we—the administration—could not take any action as we have some limitations,” he said. “The patient was in a cabin—that is true. Staying in a cabin is not the matter. If a patient stays in a cabin, the jail authorities give us a letter mentioning the class of the patient. But he stayed in a cabin without any such letter from the jail authorities—that is the matter,” he added.
When asked why the accused stayed in the cabin for a long time, the doctor replied: “He stayed here for treatment. That is the matter of the doctors, not the administration. If the doctors who provided him treatment say he needed treatment, he can stay here.”
Nur Mohammad was shown undergoing treatment for six months under Dr Mohammad Showkat Hossain, head of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr Hossain told The Independent: “He was admitted to CMCH with many complications such as high blood pressure, diabetes and prolapsed lumbar intervertebral disc (spinal medicine). He was initially admitted to the neuromedicine department. Then he was transferred to us. We formed two medical boards for him—the first board was formed in the neuromedicine department and the second was formed in my department.”
“As he did not agree for an operation for his prolapsed lumbar intervertebral disc (spinal medicine), he stayed for a long time here. It was not intentional. Then we transferred him to the neurosurgery department,” he added.
From the neurosurgery department, Nur Mohammad was released on February 2, 2017.
In January last year, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested the owner of Khan Jahan Ali Limited, Nur Mohammad, on charges of smuggling cocaine under the pretext of importing sunflower oil. A case was filed under Section 19 (1) (Kha) of the Narcotics Control Act and Section 25B of the Special Powers Act against Nur Mohammad for smuggling cocaine.
On the night of June 6, 2015, Customs officials—after being informed by the police—sealed a container at the port as it was suspected that the consignment had brought 2,140 kg of liquid cocaine into the country.
Two days later, a special team conducted the physical examination of the container at the port, but found no liquid cocaine in it. They then collected samples from the container and sent these to Dhaka for laboratory tests.
Port sources said the container was put on board from Uruguay on March 30, 2015, after being imported from Bolivia. It arrived at Chittagong port on May 13 and was kept at the port yard as no one came to release the container. The container, addressed to Nabi Market in Chittagong’s Khatungonj, was imported by Khan Jahan Ali Limited.
Interestingly, the Detective Branch (DB) of Chittagong Metropolitan Police submitted the charge-sheet accusing eight persons, but dramatically dropped the name of main suspect Nur Mohammad on November 19.
Reprimanding the DB, Chittagong Metropolitan Magistrate Rahmat Ali passed the order directing RAB-7 to conduct further investigations, saying that the DB charge-sheet was full of flaws.
On April 4, 2017, RAB-7 submitted its further investigation report, accusing Nur Mohammad of importing the drugs before the court.