Rights activists demand release of Adilur
Activists of different human rights organisations form a human chain in front of the High Court in the capital yesterday demanding release of Advocate Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of rights body Odhikar. Photo: Focus Bangla
Prominent civil society members, mainly rights activists, yesterday condemned the arrest of Odhikar Secretary Adilur Rahman Khan and demanded his immediate release.
In a statement, 34 rights activists and civil society members termed the arrest "arbitrary" and expressed concern over Adilur's security during his detention in police custody "given the impunity which law enforcers appear to enjoy".
Adilur was arrested on Saturday for publishing a “false report” on crackdown against Islamist group Hefazat-e Islam in Dhaka in the early hours of May 6.
Referring to the report, the signatories of the statement said the arrest was a hostile reaction of the government to criticism of its actions ahead of the upcoming national elections.
The arrest was made in violation of the freedom of expression, they said.
The signatories include rights activists Khushi Kabir, Hameeda Hossain, Sultana Kamal, Shaheen Anam and Shireen Huq, barrister Sara Hossain of the Supreme Court; Anu Muhammad, professor of Jahangirnagar University; Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh; Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of Dhaka University; Prof Piash Karim of Brac University, researcher Meghna Guhathakurta and health activist Zafrullah Chowdhury.
In separate statements, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association, Shushasoner Jonyo Nagorik (Sujon) and Nagorik Udyog demanded immediate release of Adilur Rahman Khan.
The government has misused the 2006 Information and Communication Act in arresting Adilur, said Sujon and Nagorik Udyog.
INT'L RIGHTS GROUPS
In a press statement, Amnesty International said the arrest of Adilur "sends a chilling message to government critics" and "it is a clear violation of the rights to freedom of expression".
"He must be released immediately and unconditionally," said Abbas Faiz, Bangladesh researcher at Amnesty International.
"Instead of punishing human rights defenders, the Bangladeshi authorities must address alleged violations by carrying out investigations and holding accountable those responsible," he added.
In a statement of the Human Rights Watch, its Asia Director Brad Adams said, "The arrest of Adil Khan appears to be an attempt to silence one of the Bangladeshi government's most vocal critics prior to national elections. The Awami League government should not respond to its low public approval ratings by making a mockery of its claims to respect the free speech rights of everyone."
If the government believes that Adilur made errors in his reporting of the May violence, it should have the courage to debate the matter with him instead of throwing him into jail, Adams added.
Odhikar had published a report in which it said law enforcers exercised excessive and unlawful force resulting in 50 deaths on May 5 and 6.
It also claimed that the government had failed to reply to their letters regarding the events of these two days.
HRW expressed concerns that Adilur might be mistreated in police custody, saying that it had previously found evidence of extensive torture on detainees by security forces.
Also, Asian Human Rights Commission condemned the arrest, saying it appears to be a threat to the civil society.
“The arrest and detention of Adilur, and the raid at Odhikar's office, are by all means a calculated, unforgiving, and condemnable assault upon the professional freedom and integrity of a human rights defender and the organisation he represents by the government of Bangladesh," reads an AHRC statement reads.