Two Bangladeshi-born female members of House of Commons of the United Kingdom ¬– Rushanara Ali and Rupa Huq – and different international rights groups expressed concern over the arrest of acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam and demand fair treatment to him.
The Labour Party parliamentarians – Rupa Huq in letter to Bangladesh High Commission in United Kingdom and UK foreign office on Monday and Rushanara Ali in a statement on August 8 – expressed their concerns.
Shahidul Alam, 63, was detained by plainclothes police from his home on the night of August 5 after giving an interview to Al Jazeera about the student protests, which he documented and discussed in Facebook Live.
A Dhaka metropolitan magistrate’s court on Sunday sent Shahidul Alam to jail after he was produced before the court following interrogation in custody for seven days.
‘I have written to Bangladeshi High Commission and UK Foreign Office demanding action after constituent-relatives of acclaimed photographer #ShahidulAlam imprisoned by Bangladeshi officials for speaking out on student protests in Dhaka @AlJazeera contacted me,’ Rupa Huq, a lawmaker from Ealing Central and Acton constituency tweeted on Tuesday.
‘Please exercise the power you wield to urge the authorities in Bangladesh to drop the case against him,’ Rupa Huq said in the letter posted on Twitter.
‘Mr Alam’s treatment is clearly a breach of human rights and a denial to the country’s constitutional right of freedom of expression. Please also push for him to be allowed access to medical treatment and legal representation, which he has thus far not had at a magistrate’s court but he needs as he approaches the High Court hearing,’ she said.
Bethnal Green and Bow constituency lawmaker Rushanara in her statement said that she received numerous representations from her constituents, who were friends of Shahidul Alam, seeking assistance following his arrest and calling for his immediate release.
Shahidul Alam is well-known in the wider British Bangladeshi community for his photography, having held many exhibitions in the UK, including in schools and the Rich Mix Arts Centre in her constituency, along with other national institutions, she said.
‘We are very concerned about his [Shahidul] safety and wellbeing, and urge the government of Bangladesh to recognise his right to free speech and fair treatment,’ Rushanara said.
‘Incidents of unlawful or disproportionate violence or action against protesters and journalists must be brought to an end. The right to peaceful protests and free speech should be protected, and the perpetrators of violence should be held to account,’ she added.
She also expressed deep concern regarding the violent clashes leading to many fatalities following student protests seeking better road safety in Dhaka and welcomed Bangladesh government’s recognition of the need to improve road safety.
Besides, New York-based rights organisation Human Rights Watch in a release and rights organisations Asian Human Rights Commission, Asia Democracy Network, CIVICUS, Forum-Asia, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert, and People’s Watch in a joint open letter to president Md Abdul Hamid on Wednesday also demanded immediate and unconditional release of Shahidul Alam.
His arrest has drawn wide condemnation from local and international rights groups, professionals and intellectuals, including American writer and philosopher Noam Chomsky, Indian writer Arundhati Roy, Canadian author Naomi Klein and Indian intellectual Vijay Prashad and several hundred nationally and internationally acclaimed citizens and rights activists alongside three UN human right experts.
Shahidul is a recipient of multiple awards, including Shilpakala Padak (2014); the Lucie Foundation announced in 2018 that he would be receiving the distinguished Humanitarian Award 2018.
Shahidul is a photographer, academic, human rights activist, and founder of Drik Picture Library and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute which has trained hundreds of photographers.
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