Three international rights bodies yesterday demanded dropping criminal charges against two senior Odhikar officials who have been indicted for running “distorted report and doctored images” on the May 6 police action against Hefajat-e Islam.
Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of the human rights organisation Odhikar, was arrested on August 11. He had been detained for 62 days before the High Court granted him bail.
Police also raided the Odhikar offices and confiscated computers and other materials.
Odhikar Director Nasiruddin Elan was initially denied bail during his first appearance in court on November 6.
However, both are now on bail and a hearing is pending for January 22.
The prosecution argued for framing charges against the accused under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 and the penal code.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Commission of Jurists pointed out that many sections of the ICT Act, particularly section 57 under which the accused were charged, violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bangladesh is a state party.
“With the politically motivated witch-hunt of Odhikar, Bangladeshi authorities are essentially shooting the messenger and saying that its security forces are above the law,” said Polly Truscott, South Asia director at Amnesty International.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Dropping these charges and accepting the rights of civil society to function would go a long way to establishing proper dialogue between all sides in Bangladesh's fractured political space.”
Sam Zarifi, Asia director at the International Commission of Jurists, said, “Charging Khan and Elan with vague and overbroad offences for a report which the government cannot even legitimately claim is false is no more than a blatant attempt to block criticism.
“Not only must the charges against Khan and Elan be dropped immediately, but the authorities need to repeal or amend the ICT Act to bring it into conformity with Bangladesh's international obligations.”