Unidentified people approached journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol’s motorbike and appear to tamper with it, the day he was last seen before what is feared to be an enforced disappearance, showed a video released by Amnesty International Saturday based on CCTV footage obtained by the human rights organisation.
‘The suspicious activities of unidentified people captured in the footage are compelling evidence that shows that he was being followed only a day after the police opened an investigation against him. Since then, he has not been seen and his fate and whereabouts remain unknown,’ said Saad Hammadi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.
Shafiqul Islam Kajol, the editor of Bangla Daily Pokkhokal, arrived on his motorbike at his newspaper office on Meher Tower at Hatirpool in Dhaka at 4:14pm on March 10.
Several unidentified persons can be seen suspiciously moving around his motorbike and keeping an eye on it for nearly three hours before he left the premise, the statement read.
In six minutes between 5:59pm and 6:05pm, three men approached his motorbike separately and appear to tamper with it.
The journalist was then seen getting out of his office with another person at 6:19pm and walking past his motorbike, and then comes back and can be seen leaving the place on his motorbike alone at 6:51pm, the footage showed.
‘That is the last time anyone has seen or heard from him,’ Saad Hammadi said.
The police registered a complaint from the family on March 11 regarding his disappearance, but they refused to take his case for investigation during the crucial first days, and have denied having him under custody, said the statement, adding, ‘it was only after a High Court order was conveyed to the police on March 18 that they carried out the first actions’.
One day before his disappearance, the police registered a case under the draconian Digital Security Act against journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol and 31 others. They were accused of publishing ‘false, offensive and defamatory’ information on Facebook.
In 2019, rights group Odhikar documented at least 34 incidents of alleged enforced disappearances. Eight of them were later found dead, 17 were shown arrested while the fate and whereabouts of the other nine remain unknown.
‘We urge the authorities to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of the journalist and release him if he is under state custody without any further delay,’ said Saad Hammadi.
When asked, Chawkbazar police station officer-in-charge Moudud Howlader said they were yet to receive the video circulated on social media. ‘Let us investigate into the matter seeing the footage,’ he added.
Kajol’s son Monorom Polok said his father was not familiar with the complainant who filed the case against his father and others.
‘I later came to know that my father gave a Facebook post following a report published on Manabzamin,’ said Polok. ‘I want my father back immediately,’ he said.
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