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PM dismisses allegations of custodial torture
PM Sheikh Hasina speaks at a meeting of Awami League Advisory Council members at her official residence Ganobahban.

PM dismisses allegations of custodial torture

Dhaka – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday shrugged off the allegations of torture in custody by Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies.“Information is gathered from criminals using the methods the other countries apply and nothing is done beyond it,” she said in an interview with the BBC.

Noting that there are international rules to interrogate presumed and suspected criminals, she said her government trained members of law enforcement agencies by sending them to countries like the USA and the UK.

But some stray incidents may occur, she said adding that custodial deaths are currently very rare in Bangladesh.

The Prime Minister said a “culture of impunity” had developed under the previous governments and that she herself was a victim of that situation.

She said this culture of impunity continued for many years when military dictators ruled the country directly, and often in the guise of politicians, after the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Asked about initiatives taken by her government to stop such culture, Sheikh Hasina replied: “All appropriate measures in this regard.”

“It was a difficult task to bring the country back to a healthy trend and we’ve performed that difficult task,” she said.

She also criticised a section of people spearheading propaganda on the rights situation.

“This section is always desperate to find our faults, their status become elevated when an unconstitutional or abnormal government or martial law rules the country,” the Prime Minister said.

Asked whether the people are getting the benefits of economic growth, Hasina said they certainly are. She noted that the country’s poverty rate had been brought down to 21.04 percent from over 41 percent in 2005-2006.

The Prime Minister said per capita income increased to about $2,000 from $400/500 and the country achieved 8.1 percent growth in the last fiscal year.

“When higher growth is achieved, the inflation increases naturally. But we didn’t allow raising inflation and we maintained it at 5.5 or 6 percent,” she said.

Hasina also said the fruits of economical uplift are reaching the common people very naturally.

When asked about the “vulnerable situation” in banking sector and loan default culture, she said the matter is not at that extent as much as it publicised.

“It was started while the military dictators were in power. When we came to power, we tried to realise the loans,” she said.

About freedom of media, Hasina said the mass media is enjoying full freedom. “If it doesn’t exist, [then] how a propaganda mixing with truth and falsehood is being carried out against me and my government?” she asked.

The Prime Minister said many people are saying that there is no freedom of mass media. “But how [can] they speak so much if freedom of speech doesn’t exist,” she asked.

The Prime Minister said her government is trying hard to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the country.

“If anybody delivers provocative speech, will then anybody and the country remain idle? … no, they cannot, security will have to be given to people first and we’ll have to do whatever necessary for their security,” she added.UNB