'Chetia controlling ULFA from jail'

Updated on May 21, 2007 09:14 PM IST
Bangladeshi writer Shahriar Kabir says the ULFA leader is controlling operations from Dhaka jail, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.
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Hindustan Times | ByNilova Roy Chaudhury, New Delhi

From the secure confines of Dhaka Central jail, ULFA leader Anup Chetia is controlling and planning operations by the insurgent group against targets in Assam and other parts of northeast India, Shahriar Kabir, a prominent Bangladeshi writer, filmmaker and civil rights activist said. Bangladesh has declined Indian requests to send Chetia back to India, even though his jail term is over.

According to Kabir, who shared jail quarters with the ULFA leader during his detention in Dhaka Central Jail, Chetia has "access to a mobile telephone and runs ULFA's operations from the jail, where he is kept in royal style." Chetia, whose jail term is over, is lodged in a three-room complex and has a separate bathroom and kitchen.

Bangladesh authorities have refused to send Chetia back to India, citing the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries.

India, along with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan and Afghanistan should push for the creation of an organisation that can collaborate to counter the widespread links between terrorists and 'jihadi' elements in these countries, outside the ambit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Kabir told the Hindustan Times.

Instead of only looking to how it can further its business interests, India needs to play a proactive role in ensuring that Bangladesh moves away from the 'jihadi culture'. India's tacit support to the interim government in Bangladesh was allowing the Army and those "inimical to India's interests" to regain their key positions there, Kabir said.

During his visit to India, Kabir is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and senior government officials.

Kabir claims he has details of linkages between the various 'jihadi' and terrorist groups operating in Bangladesh and Myanmar with insurgent groups in northeastern India, the details of which he can provide to the Indian authorities.

Kabir was detained, jailed and tortured on charges of sedition against the state in November 2002, during the tenure of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. He was arrested for writing about the jihadi links of the Jamaat-I-Islami, which was a partner in Zia's government.

Bangladesh police are seeking to drop sedition charges against Kabir and six others, including two European journalists, saying they were found innocent after five years of "primary" investigations. Kabir, who is visiting India for treatment for injuries sustained during detention in Dhaka and Chittagong Central jails, has been Amnesty International's 'prisoner of conscience'.

A magisterial court is expected to decide on Kabir's case on May 22.

Those accused with Kabir are British Channel 4 journalists Zaiba Naz Malik of Britain and Leopoldo Bruno Sorrentino of Italy, NGO activist Pricilla Raj, freelance journalist Saleem Samad, Tofael Ahmed and advocate Rana Das Gupta. All of them, including Kabir, are now on bail while the foreign journalists were deported.

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