Chittagong Hill Tracts: Activist Released from Prison
Ranglai Mro, leader of the remote Mro (or Mru) people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, was released on bail today after almost two years in prison.
Ranglai Mro was arrested in February 2007 and sentenced to 17 years in jail for possessing a weapon. It is thought that the charges were invented in retaliation for Ranglai’s protests against the eviction of his people from their land to make way for an army training centre.
Ranglai was brutally tortured whilst in custody. He was hospitalized, and was found to have suffered a heart attack. He was then sent back to jail without proper medical treatment.
Almost two years after his arrest, Ranglai was finally taken to a specialist coronary hospital in Dhaka on 1 January this year, when his condition became critical. However, he was kept in chains there, causing an outcry in Bangladesh. Doctors said the chains were hampering their ability to treat him.
The use of chains was reported in a Bangladeshi newspaper, and after Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission got involved the prison authorities claimed they had been removed. But a photo released last Friday showed that Ranglai was still handcuffed and tied by a rope to the bed – despite the court having already ordered his release on bail on medical grounds.
Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘We are delighted that Ranglai Mro has finally been released. However, we are deeply disturbed by the torture he has undergone. We urge the new Bangladeshi government to review Ranglai’s case and to end the arrests, torture and repression of the Jumma people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.’
The Mro are one of the eleven Jumma tribes of the Hill Tracts. Bangladesh’s new government, which won a landslide victory in the country’s December 29  elections, has promised to honour the 1997 peace accord with the Jumma peoples.