06/05/2009, 00.00
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Dhaka: Catholic chef arrested for possession of alcohol

by William Gomes
In reality the manager of the prestigious restaurant in the capital wanted to fire the cook to give his job to a relative. Human rights activists ask for justice and promise legal assistance.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The chef of an exclusive Dhaka restaurant has been in prison for the past 10 days charged with “illegally possessing alcohol”.  Sapon D Costa, a catholic and head chef at the Castel Inn, was arrested on the night of May 24th.  Police confirm that they have opened up an inquiry into the case.  The chef’s family accuses the new manager of the restaurant – located in the upmarket Baridhara area of Dhaka – of being the architect of a conspiracy to have him fired.

The plight of Sapon D Costa (see photo) is explained by his wife Onima Corraya, nurse and mother of their 23 month old son (Blaze), who tells of receiving “threats from the restaurant owner” against her “seeking justice in the courts”.  “Usually – the woman says – my husband returned home in the evenings between 11 and 11.30.  On the night of the 24th when he still was not home by midnight I called him on the mobile phone.  He told me not to worry and he would be home soon.  A few minutes later he called again to tell me that the police had raided the hotel and he was under arrest”.

Onima says she “prayed all night to Our Lady” and the next day she made her way to the police station, accompanied by her uncle Sojon Hembron. Police officers told her that no-one had been arrested the night before.  Onima then had to hunt down where her husband was being kept, amid fears that the police could have “tortured or even killed” her husband.   After many fruitless attempts she eventually located him in Badda police station: “When I saw my husband behind bars – she says – I could not hold back my tears”. Sapon D Costa was arrested on charges of illegally possessing alcohol” which officers apparently found in the restaurant.  His wife says its part of a plot orchestrated by the new manager of the Castel Inn, Mohammed Kamal, with whom her husband has had a series of disagreements in the past. The manager apparently has tried to have him fired to give his job over to relatives.

The Catholic community close to the family is demanding justice.  Fr. Edmond Cruz who has known “Sapon D Costa for many years” pledges that he is “a fervent Catholic and honest man”. Catholic and human rights activist and coordinator of a local legal aid office, Faustina Pereira, has promised to everything in her power to come to the aid of the family and says she will seek “conditional release on bail”.


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