Case under ICT Act: Odhikar’s Adilur, Elan jailed for 2yrs
Odhikar Secretary Adilur Rahman Khan and Director ASM Nasiruddin Elan have been sentenced to two years in prison in a case filed for running "a distorted report and doctored images" about the May 5-6, 2013, police action on a Hefajat-e-Islam rally in Motijheel.
A Dhaka court yesterday delivered the verdict in the case lodged under the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Act.
It cancelled their bail and ordered them to be sent to jail with conviction warrants. Adil and Elan were in the courtroom.
The court also fined each of them Tk 10,000, in default of which they would have to serve one month more in jail.
Public Prosecutor Mohammad Nazrul Islam Shamim told The Daily Star that they were not satisfied with the judgment and that they would appeal before the High Court.
Adilur said he did not get justice from the court and that he too would appeal.
Human rights activist Nur Khan Liton, who was present during judgment delivery, told journalists that Adilur, a prominent rights activist, was convicted under the controversial section 57 of the ICT Act which contradicts human rights and justice.
In the verdict, the judge said the accused ran the distorted report and doctored images just to malign the image of the government nationally and internationally. Moreover, their report about the death of people was false.
On June 10, 2013, the Detective Branch of police filed a general diary with the Gulshan Police Station in this connection, which was later converted into a case.
Detectives arrested Adilur at Gulshan on August 10, 2013, shortly after filing the GD which said the rights body on its website ran a false report titled "Assembly of Hefajat-e Islam Bangladesh and Human Rights Violation".
The report tarnished the images of the country, the government, and the law enforcement agencies, read the GD.
The Odhikar's report claimed that 61 people died in the wee hours of May 6 when the law enforcers flushed several thousand Hefajat activists out of the Shapla Chattar in the capital's Motijheel.
The government put the number of deaths at 13.
On August 11, 2013, police raided Odhikar's Gulshan office and seized three laptops and two desktop computers.
After probing the case, the DB on September 4, 2013, pressed charges against Adilur and Elan.
Odhikar in a statement yesterday denounced the arrest, trial and imprisonment of the two. It said it believes that justice has not been served.
"As an organisation, Odhikar has drawn the sustained wrath of the establishment for becoming the voice of the victims of human rights violations, including those of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention and against the suppression of free expression and assembly; and for its engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms," it said.
The US embassy in Dhaka expressed concern that yesterday's judgment against Adilur and Elan might further undermine the willingness of human rights defenders and civil society to play their vital democratic role.
Seventy-two national and international human rights organisations in a joint statement yesterday said the Bangladesh authorities should immediately release Adilur and Elan, quash their convictions, and end all reprisals against them and other human rights defenders .
Amnesty International, Capital Punishment Justice Project, Australia, Human Rights Watch, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), and Robert F Kennedy Human Rights are among the signatories to the statement.
Human rights defenders should be allowed to conduct their necessary and important work without fear of harassment, intimidation, and reprisals. Instead of prosecuting and punishing those who document and expose human rights violations, the government should investigate and hold the perpetrators of these violations accountable, the statement said.