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Shahidul Alam falsely charged and tortured

Status: 
Imprisoned
About the situation

On 4 September 2018, the High Court bench set to hear human rights defender Shahidul Alam’s bail hearing, forwarded his bail petition to the Chief Justice for a decision, citing embarrassment. No date has been set for the next hearing in the human rights defender's bail petition.

On 12 August 2018, detained human rights defender Shahidul Alam was transferred to Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj. He was taken to the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, where he was confined to the vehicle he was transported in, after a seven day remand and sent to the incarceration facility. Shahidul Alam’s family was not informed that he would be produced before the court, due to which his lawyer could not be present. The human rights defender was scheduled to be produced before the court on 13 August but was presented a day early. He is to be kept in prison until the completion of the investigation into the charges against him.

On 5 August, human rights defender Shahidul Alam was detained at his home by members of the Detective Branch of Police. He appeared in court on 6 August, charged with “spreading propaganda and false information against the government”. During the session, the human rights defender informed the Court that he had been tortured in custody.

About Shahidul Alam

Shahidul Alam is an award-winning photographer, academic and human rights defender. In 1998, he founded Pathshala South Asian Institute of Photography. Pathshala has trained hundreds of photographers and helped in diversifying methods of highlighting human rights violations in the country. The defender is also a director of Chobi Mela, a festival of photography in Asia. His recent photography exhibitions have exposed human rights violations suffered by victims of extra judicial killings, Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrant workers abroad.

5 September 2018
Shahidul Alam’s bail hearing delayed further

On 4 September 2018, the High Court bench set to hear human rights defender Shahidul Alam’s bail hearing, forwarded his bail petition to the Chief Justice for a decision, citing embarrassment. No date has been set for the next hearing in the human rights defender's bail petition.

The bail petition was presented to a High Court bench comprising two judges on 27 August, but was deferred to 4 September, when the bench withdrew from the scheduled hearing. In Bangladesh, judges of the High Court can express embarrassment about hearing any case, in order to withdraw themselves from the case to ensure fair and impartial justice is served. However, they can also express embarrassment if they are threatened openly or discretely by anybody. The High Court bench has neither disclosed the reason nor named the judge who expressed embarrassment.

This is the latest move that will delay Shahidul Alam’s bail hearing, who has now been held in detention for a month. His bail application was first rejected on 6 August by the Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Court, following which another appeal for bail was filed in the High Court.

Shahidul Alam was forcefully arrested on 5 August 2018 on charges of “spreading propaganda and false information against the government”. During his first court appearance on 6 August, the human rights defender informed the Court that he had been tortured in custody.

Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern over the repeated delaying of Shahidul Alam’s bail hearings, and reiterates its call to immediately and unconditionally release Shahidul Alam and drop all charges against him.

14 August 2018
Shahidul Alam sent to prison

On 12 August 2018, detained human rights defender Shahidul Alam was transferred to Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj. He was taken to the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, where he was confined to the vehicle he was transported in, after a seven day remand and sent to the incarceration facility. Shahidul Alam’s family was not informed that he would be produced before the court, due to which his lawyer could not be present. The human rights defender was scheduled to be produced before the court on 13 August but was presented a day early. He is to be kept in prison until the completion of the investigation into the charges against him.

During a hearing at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on 13 August, it emerged that the human rights defender was taken to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) but not examined for torture as directed by an order issued by the High Court on 9 August 2018. The High Court had also directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to send Shahidul Alam’s medical report to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's (CMM) Court by 13 August but the CMM’s Court did not receive any such report.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the unjust imprisonment of human rights defender Shahidul Alam. It urges the authorities in Bangladesh to immediately and unconditionally release Shahidul Alam from prison and drop all charges against him.

7 August 2018
Shahidul Alam falsely charged and tortured in police custody

On 5 August, human rights defender Shahidul Alam was detained at his home by members of the Detective Branch of Police. He appeared in court on 6 August, charged with “spreading propaganda and false information against the government”. During the session, the human rights defender informed the Court that he had been tortured in custody.

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On 5 August, in the afternoon, Shahidul Alam was attacked by an armed group near City College in Dhaka while he was recording attacks on students protesting for safer roads. Soon after the attack, he took shelter inside a nearby guest house and narrated the incident live on his Facebook page. Later that evening, at approximately 10:30 p.m., the human rights defender was forcefully taken from his Dhanmondi residence by a large number of plainclothes men who identified themselves to building security as members of the Detective Branch of Police. His lawyer, family members and friends later arrived at the Detective Branch office, but were not provided with any information as to his whereabouts.

Following a press conference with Shahidul Alam’s family and lawyer on 6 August at 11:30 a.m., the human rights defender’s partner was informed that Shahidul Alam would appear in court that afternoon. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Shahidul Alam was taken to the courtroom, barefoot and walking with difficulty. During the session, he informed the Court that he had been tortured in custody and that police had forced him to wash the blood from his clothes and put them on again. Rejecting the bail application submitted by his lawyers, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Dhaka ordered the human rights defender’s remand in custody for seven days on charges of “spreading propaganda and false information against the government”, filed against him under the controversial section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act. On 7 August 2018, due to his medical condition, the High Court bench of Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir asked jail authorities to immediately send the human rights defender to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) for treatment.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the arrest and charges against Shahidul Alam and is gravely concerned by reports of his torture in detention. Bangladesh's remand detention procedures often result in the torture and abuse of human rights defenders.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Bangladesh to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Shahidul Alam and drop all charges against him, as Front Line Defenders believes that he is being held solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee his physical and psychological integrity and security and integrity, as well as that of his family and ensure that the treatment of Shahidul Alam, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the “Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment”, adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

3. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into any instances of torture against Shahidul Alam with a view to publishing the results of any such investigation and bringing the perpetrators to justice in line with Bangladesh’s international human rights obligations;

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bangladesh are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

6 August 2018
Shahidul Alam Detained & Injured

Police raided the home of Shahidul Alam in Dhanmondi, Dhaka at around 10pm on 5 August. He was forcefully arrested and injured as police put him into a van. His family went to the detective branch of police in Dhaka searching for him, but was told they had no information. On the morning of 6 August, Shahidul's lawyer went to the detective branch and was again told they had no information.

The lawyer and family decided to hold a press conference to demand information about his whereabouts. Police then called his wife, and informed her that Shahidul would appear in court that afternoon.

When he appeared in court Shahidul was not able to walk on his own, appearing to be injured. He told his family that in detention police had forced him to wash his bloodied clothes and put them on again. The court ordered that he be held in remand for seven days for interrogation.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the detention of HRD Shahidul Alam and is gravely concerned for his well-being in detention. Bangladesh's remand detention procedures often result in the torture and abuse of human rights defenders. Shahidul must be immediately and unconditionally released.