Internationally acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam has once again been denied bail in a case filed for “spreading propaganda against the government”.
Judge KM Imrul Kayes of Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court of Dhaka yesterday rejected Shahidul's bail petition moved by his lawyer Sara Hossain.
The order came a day after the High Court directed the lower court concerned to dispose of the plea by yesterday.
During the hearing, Sara alleged that her client was implicated in the case as part of a conspiracy to harass him. She argued that Shahidul, a renowned photographer winning a series of awards, should be granted bail for ensuring justice.
Opposing the argument, Dhaka Metropolitan Public Prosecutor (PP) Abdullah Abu said Shahidul had “instigated students to continue a [recent] movement against the government and such activities damaged the image of the government at home and abroad”.
Shahidul also should be charged with sedition for his remarks on the government, the PP said, adding, “So, we appeal to scrap the petition”.
The court then rejected the bail prayer.
Shahidul, 63, is now in Dhaka Central Jail, in the case lodged under the controversial section 57 of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. Police charged him with “spreading propaganda and false information against the government”.
He was picked up by plainclothes men from his home in the capital's Dhanmondi on August 5.
Police filed the case against him and produced him before a Dhaka court the following day. He was then placed on a seven-day remand.
According to the case statement, Shahidul in a Facebook live video said: “The present AL [Awami League] government is non-elected and so [it] does not have any mandate to continue. Bank looting is conducted by the people in power and their associates. Extra-judicial killing is conducted every now and then.”
The case statement also said, “Personally he believes that without the caretaker government no free, fair and neutral election is possible in Bangladesh. So, the present government must be overthrown.”
In court, Shahidul said he was tortured in custody. Police, however, denied the allegation.
On completion of his seven-day remand, Shahidul was denied bail and sent to jail by a Dhaka court on August 12.
On September 4, a judge of another HC bench felt “embarrassed” to hear Shahidul's bail petition in the case. The same day, the bench forwarded the petition to the chief justice for a decision.
The bench, however, did not disclose any reason for the move.
Many notable personalities, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and 11 other Nobel prize winners have called for immediate release of Shahidul.
'CRUEL AFFRONT TO JUSTICE'
Responding to the denial of bail to the photographer, Saad Hammadi, South Asia regional campaigner at Amnesty International, said, “The decision to deny Shahidul Alam bail is a cruel affront to justice.”
In a statement yesterday, he said, “Shahidul should never have been detained in the first place, since all he did was peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Now, he is being subjected to prolonged detention for no justifiable reason whatsoever.”
“Beyond the injustice to Shahidul Alam himself, the case risks tarnishing Bangladesh's reputation globally. There has been a widespread outcry against the appalling treatment of this much loved photographer. He must be released immediately and unconditionally,” he said.