A Dhaka metropolitan magistrate’s court on Monday remanded internationally acclaimed photographer and activist Shahidul Alam for seven days in police custody for interrogation.
Additional chief metropolitan magistrate Asaduzzman Noor passed the order after a 30-minute hearing in a case under controversial Section 57 of Information and Communication Technology Act filed with Ramna police station few hours after his arrest at his Dhanmondi house Sunday night.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police counter terrorism and transnational crime unit inspector Arman Ali produced Shahidul bear-footed before the court seeking him to be interrogated in police custody for 10 days to find his unnamed local and international friends made
accused in the case.
Investigation officer Arman Ali stated that Shahidul was arrested in the case filed under section 57(2) of the ICT Act on charge of spreading ‘imaginary propaganda against the government’ on his Facebook page that ‘triggered panic among public and caused deterioration of law and order.’
The page, however, is now inaccessible.
Arman told the court that Shahidul was hatching international conspiracy against Bangladesh.
Defence counsel requested the court to ask the investigation officer to produce documents in support of his claim. Arman repeatedly called for letting him finish his words.
Shahidul’s counsel Jyotirmay Barua asked the court to hear the version of the accused and the court allowed him to speak.
‘I was hit (in custody). I bled,’ Shahidul told the court.
Then the general recording officer of the court sub-inspector Mahmudur Rahman told the court how it could be possible for the accused to speak up if he was hit in the face.
Shahidul said when he was working at his home Sunday night the doorbell rang. ‘As I opened the door, a little girl appeared and asked whether I am Shahidul. Then a group people dashed into my apartment and whisked me off to the lift and then got me on a microbus,’ he said.
Shahidul said that they kept him handcuffed all the night and hurled abusive words. Few of them also quizzed him with dignity citing his international fame, Shahidul told the court.
Another defence counsel Sara Hossain argued that they came to know about Shahidul’s whereabouts almost 15 hours after he was taken from the house.
She explained how the Appellate Division judgement on arrest and interrogation was violated and argued that the court should take action against officials who violated the judgement.
When he was being taken from one court to another, Shahidul told the press that his captors had washed his blood-stained punjabi and then made him to wear it again. He was barefooted when he was produced before a court wrongly and the family members bought a rubber flip-flop for him.
As his counsel asked what happened to his shoes, he said he cannot say what happened to those as the detectives had whisked him off his flat onto a microbus.
On Sunday night, a band of plainclothes police picked up Shahidul from his house at Dhanmondi.
Shahidul Alam was detained few hours after he had given an interview to Doha-based television channel Al Jazeera on the ongoing student protests for road safety.
‘I was hit [in custody]. [They] washed my blood-stained punjabi and then made me wear it again,’ said Shahidul Alam as he was taken to a court for remand hearing.
The Amnesty International in a statement on Monday said that Bangladesh authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Shahidul Alam.
‘Shahidul Alam must be immediately and unconditionally released. There is no justification whatsoever for detaining anyone for solely peacefully expressing their views. His arrest marks a dangerous escalation of a crackdown by the government that has seen the police and vigilantes unleash violence against student protestors,’ said Amnesty International’s deputy South Asia director Omar Waraich.
PEN International also condemned the arrest of writer and photographer Shahidul Alam and called for his immediate and unconditional release.
In the interim, PEN called on the Bangladeshi authorities to ensure his wellbeing and that he was not subjected to ill-treatment while in detention.
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