The Asian Human Rights Commission and the CIVICUS in a joint statement said Bangladesh authorities must immediately release human rights defender Mohammad Abdul Kaium who has been allegedly tortured in custody during his arbitrary detention.
Kaium is associated with rights group Odhikar.
The fabricated case filed against him under the Digital Security Act and other penal laws should be dropped immediately, said the organisations.
In 2018, Kaium signed an agreement to provide web-development service for Idris Ali Khan, a close relative of a Member of Parliament of the ruling party, whom Kaium had criticised in the past. The agreement was worth Tk 1,20,000 or $1,394.
Idris Khan offered $200, significantly lower than the agreed amount which Kaium refused to take. Two plain-clothed officers of the Detective Branch later arrested him.
The DB police ordered Kaium to give them ‘the USD 200' and searched him. Failing to find the money, the police tortured him and ordered Kaium to confess that he extorted money from Idris Khan, said the organisations.
While he was in detention, a team of plain-clothes detectives raided Kaium's house in the Bhatiashor area of Mymensing town without a search warrant. The police seized files and other items, including the signed web development agreement between Kaium's company and Idris Khan, but they did not submit a list of seized items to the court.
Kaium has told AHRC's human rights fact-finding team that on the evening of May 11, from his cell, he overheard Idris Khan bribing the police officers to torture him.
On May 14, the magistrate rejected both petitions for remand and bail and ordered that Kaium be detained in prison. On May 23, the Sessions Judge's Court rejected Kaium's bail petition.
The organisations said Bangladesh authorities must halt the practice of fabricating cases against independent human rights defenders and journalists.
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