Crackdown leaves Bangladesh jails overcrowded
Mar 25, 2007 - 4:07:58 PM

Dhaka, March 25 - The prison authorities in Bangladesh have started releasing old and infirm prisoners and those caught for petty crimes to create space for those detained in its drive against corruption and militancy.

An estimated 45,000 people have been detained and are being prosecuted.

The New Age newspaper says the authorities feel the urgent to ease 'increasing pressure on the jails that are overcrowded with more than three times their capacity'.

Among those detained are former prime minister Khaleda Zia's politician son Tarique Rahman and several former ministers and lawmakers of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party - that ruled the country till Oct 30 last year.

Also caught and under trial are officials charged with corruption and businessmen who became rich allegedly because of their links with the BNP.

A total of 4,169 prisoners convicted of petty crimes, the elderly, crime suspects and those who have been imprisoned for 14 years and 20 years will be released in phases, prison directorate sources told the newspaper.

So far 861 select prisoners have been released from various jails and the rest are likely to be set free within the next few days, the jail officials said.

The number is, however, 'too small' to make any real positive impact on the country's 66 prisons that now house about 80,000 inmates against their capacity of only 26,000.

Still, the prison authorities think the measure will provide 'a little more space' for the detainees.

'Many prisoners who are no longer able to commit any serious crime are being released to lessen the overcrowding and give the prisoners a little bit more space,' said the Inspector General of Prisons, Brigadier General Mohammed Zakir Hasan.

The prison directorate's move was prompted on instructions from the government.

The conditions in jail have now turned 'dreadful and inhuman', a source at a prison said.

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