Journo Probir sent to jail
A Faridpur court yesterday sent journalist Probir Sikdar to jail in a case under Information and Communication Technology Act, for “tarnishing the image” of LGRD Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain.
Local Awami League leader Swapan Kumar Paul filed the case on Sunday after Probir in a Facebook post said his life was under threat and that the minister, businessman Moosa bin Shamser and condemned fugitive war criminal Abul Kalam Azad would be responsible if he were killed, police said.
Police produced the journalist before the Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court in Faridpur, seeking a 10-day remand. But the court sent Probir, 55, to prison and may hear the remand petition today, court sources said.
During yesterday's proceedings, however, no lawyer stood for Probir in the court. His son Suprio Sikdar said they requested a number of lawyers to represent his father but no one dared do so, fearing reprisal from “influential people”.
"I have enough reasons to be apprehensive given the way police picked up my father. Besides, despite relentless efforts I could not get a lawyer to defend my father in the court,” he told The Daily Star.
Probir, editor of Bangla daily Bangla 71 and online news portal u71news.com was picked up by detectives on Sunday evening from his office in the capital.
Police first said they took him to the DB office to “discuss” the threats he was under as he claimed in his Facebook post. Later around midnight, they admitted to have arrested him in the case filed with Faridpur Sadar Police Station.
The arrest of Probir, who lost his father and several other family members during the Liberation War, sparked huge protest on the streets and also in social media.
The senior journalist wrote a series of reports titled "Sei Razakar" in Bangla daily Janakantha in 2001 against some alleged war criminals, including a controversial businessman from Faridpur and the now condemned war criminal Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bacchu Razakar, according to a draft GD that he posted on Facebook after police allegedly refused to record it.
He was attacked in April 2001 following his write-ups. In the attack, he lost a leg and also strength and mobility of one hand.
Meanwhile, legal experts have raised questions over the filing of the case.
“Under the ICT law, only the aggrieved person can lodge a case. There is no scope for any third party to file a suite,” Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told The Daily Star last night.
Contacted earlier in the evening, Swapan Kumar Paul, also assistant public prosecutor of Judge's Court in Faridpur, said, “I have filed the case as Khandaker Mosharraf is our leader and his image has been tarnished through the Facebook post.”
But Suprio said Khandker Mosharraf held his father responsible after Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad alleged that the minister and some ruling party lawmakers were grabbing properties of religious minorities.
He claimed the LGRD minister was outraged by a number of Facebook posts by his father.
"The case against my father and his arrest are linked with those incidents…. I sent my mother and younger brother to Faridpur but I am staying back in Dhaka because some well-wishers have warned me of possible danger waiting for me there,” he said.
However, talking to the BBC Bangla Service, Khandker Mosharraf said he was surprised to know that Probir mentioned his name in a Facebook post saying that his (Probir's) life was under threat.
“It's a matter of Faridpur. Who is doing what in Faridpur … it's only for them to know. I've no idea about it. The allegation against me is nothing but lunacy of an insane person…it's plain and simple insanity.”
The minister also claimed he had no conflict with Probir Sikdar.
Fellow journalists, different socio-political organisations, professional and rights bodies protested Probir's arrest yesterday.
In a protest rally by journalists in front of the Jatiya Press Club in the capital, Probir's wife Anita Sikdar expressed concern about the health of her husband in jail and demanded his immediate release.
The journalists issued a 24-hour ultimatum for his release.
They also warned of a tougher movement if he was not freed by then.
A faction of Gonojagoron Mancha led by Imran H Sarkar yesterday brought out a procession and held a rally condemning the arrest.
They also demanded his immediate release, withdrawal of the case and scrapping of section 57 of the ICT law under which the case was filed.
Ain o Salish Kendra, Communist Party of Bangladesh and Rajshahi University Journalist Association expressed deep concern over his arrest and demanded his immediate release.