Rifat murder smokescreen and a fair chance to stand trial

Published: 00:00, Jul 21,2019 | Updated: 23:26, Jul 20,2019


THE arrest of Aysha Siddika, widow of Rifat Sharif who was hacked to death by four people in Barguna, on July 16 and her being remanded in police custody for interrogation the next day appear to be as happening as the murder that took place on June 26. The murder, a video clip of which did the rounds on the social networking sites, showed that Aysha was trying to save her husband while the four kept hacking him, with no one present there venturing forward with any help, in a blatant mark of a growing dehumanisation of society and a fearful situation that a declining political culture has created. The victim’s wife Aysha is reported to have said that the four assailants dragged Rifat out of the college, when he went there to drop his wife, and hacked him with sharp weapons in daylight. In about a week on July 2, Shabbir Ahmed, the prime suspect in the murder of Rifat and the ringleader of a gang named ‘007’, who was wanted by the police in eight cases involving extortion, mugging and murder, came to be killed in a ‘gunfight’ with the police.

Although the police said that their best efforts to capture Shabbir alive had failed, it is widely believed that the extrajudicial killing only broke the link in the crime chain, saving the politically and financially powerful quarters that might have been at play behind-the-scenes. Allegations, meanwhile, came up from people close to Rifat Sharif that she had a hand in the murder. The police interrogated Aysha all day long on July 16 and arrested her that evening. She was produced in court the next day when she pleaded not guilty and she was remanded in police custody for interrogation for five days. She gave a statement in the judicial magistrate’s court on Friday in which she is claimed by the police to have confessed to being involved in the murder. Local people also held protests demanding the arrest of Aysha. When she was produced in court for remand in police custody, Aysha’s family said that they could not engage any lawyer to stand for Aysha as no one there was willing. The son of the local Awami League lawmaker is a lawyer and local leader of the ruling party. All this suggests that there has been a smokescreen around the incidents. Aysha might have been involved in the murder which could be unearthed by a fair investigation. Aysha may very well not have been involved. But in what has followed, Aysha so far appears not be getting a fair chance to stand trial. It is, therefore, for the people engaged in justice dispensation and justice delivery system to ensure that she gets a fair chance to head off a miscarriage of justice.

There have already been talks of an affair of love and other such issues at the heart of the incident, which are typical of incidents that involve political clout and moneyed interest, more so when such incidents revolve round women, especially in a patriarchal mentality that has society in its grip. But what the investigators must realise is that a crime is a crime, shorn of any bells and trinkets. They must view it, first and foremost, as a crime and treat the whole affair accordingly. And they must afford any suspects in the crime all the scopes that are logical, laid out in the laws and required to further the rule of law.

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