Politicians, eminent citizens, quota reform activists and families on Friday demanded immediate release of the arrested students and campaigners rallying for quota reform and road safety while fear gripped cross section of people as police continued arresting and hunting for people on allegation of spreading rumours.
They made the demand at separate programmes in Dhaka against the backdrop of arrest of over 100 people, mostly students, for taking part in protests for road safety and on allegation of spreading rumour.
A Dhaka metropolitan magistrate’s court on Friday remanded 28-year-old female small entrepreneur Faria Mahjabin, arrested in Dhaka Thursday night by the Rapid Action Battalion branding her as an spreader of rumour allegedly for uploading video footage of
student protests for road safety in Hazaribagh and Jigatola areas.
UK-based rights group Amnesty International in a statement on Friday said that an atmosphere of fear gripped cross section of people in Bangladesh following a police crackdown on protesters of the recent movement for road safety.
Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Council, the platform of protesters for reform of quota system in public service recruitment, at a press conference at Crime Reporters Association of Bangladesh in Dhaka demanded unconditional release of arrested protesters of quota reform and road safety before Eid-ul-Azha.
Council joint convener Ataullah also demanded withdrawal of remands of the protesters in custody and ‘false and fabricated cases’ filed against them.
He said that council joint convener Lutfun Nahar Luma, also an Eden College student, arrested on August 15, was never engaged in road safety movement and police arrested her on false accusation.
Lutfun Nahar was actually arrested for quota reform movement as she was never participated in the road safety movement, said Ataullah.
He said that a video of August 4 went viral on Facebook and other social media sites showing a female wearing pink dress covering her face talking about the protests. Lutfun Nahar had once participated in a television talk show wearing a pink dress and police arrested her on suspicion for having a pink dress although she had no connection with the video, Ataullah said.
Police brought allegation against Lutfun that she spread rumour through Facebook, Twitter and You Tube while she had no account on Twitter and You Tube Channel, he said.
Families of the students arrested during protests for quota reform and road safety, in a human chain in front of the National Press Club demanded their immediate release.
Addressing the programme, Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna demanded immediate action against those who attacked the students and journalists during the student protests.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury and human rights activist Farida Akter, among others, spoke at the human chain and demanded immediate release of the students and photographer Shahidul Alam, arrested on August 5 in a case under the Information and Communication Technology Act following the broadcast of his interview by Al Jazeera.
Detained quota reform leader Rashed Khan’s mother Saleha Begum and Tarikul Islam’s father Shafiqul Islam demanded release of all student arrested during the protests.
At a solidarity rally organised by Jatiya Oikya Prokriya at National Press Club, politicians, academics and professionals urged the government to solve the quota reform issue through discussion.
They demanded release of the people arrested in connection with the protests before the Eid-ul-Azha, to be observed on Wednesday.
‘The Bangladeshi authorities must end this crackdown and release all protestors who were peacefully exercising their human rights,’ Amnesty International deputy South Asia director Omar Waraich said in a statement.
Amnesty International criticised lack of action against police and ruling party’s student wing, Bangladesh Chhatra League, who might have used ‘unnecessary and excessive force’ for suppressing the ‘largely peaceful protestors.’
‘The authorities have also arrested three other people, including prominent photographer Shahidul Alam, under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s vague, overly broad and draconian Information and Communication Technology Act,’ said the statement.
‘Shahidul Alam, Quazi Nawshaba Ahmed, Faria Mahjabin and all of the students who were arrested solely for peacefully exercising their human rights are prisoners of conscience. They must be released immediately and unconditionally,’ said Omar Waraich.
Dhaka metropolitan magistrate AKM Mainuddin Siddiqui remanded Faria Mahjabin in police custody for three days after sub-inspector Majedul Islam of Hazaribagh police station produced her before the court in a case lodged by a RAB official Friday morning under the ICT act, said general recording officer in the court Makbul Ahmed.
He said that Faria had no lawyer to defend her during the hearing.
An official of Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Ramna Zone, involved in the investigation, told New Age that Mahjabin, one of the owners of Nerdy Beans Coffee House at Dhanmondi, videoed the student protests at Hazaribagh and Jigatala and circulated it through social media.
RAB officials said a battalion team arrested Faria, wife of Md Riasat of Hazi Afsar Uddin Road at Hazaribagh, at her house on Thursday and seized a mobile phone.
The recent nine-day countrywide students’ protests demanding safe roads and ending traffic anarchy since July 29 sparked by the killing of two teen students by a reckless bus at Kurmitola in Dhaka.
The student protests abruptly came to an end on August 6 amid attacks by police and peo-Awami League activists on the protesters and journalists and arrests of university students for supporting the movement.
The police claimed that the arrested either were involved ‘in vandalism and attacks on police’ or ‘instigated the protests spreading rumour’.
On August 13, Dhaka Metropolitan Police launched stringent legal procedure against operators of 150 accounts of social media, especially Facebook, who made posts on the student protests.
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