According to CFJ, member of parliament Saifuzzaman Shikhor filed the first DSA complaint against photojournalist and Editor of Pakshakal Kajol on March 9
The Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) has called on the Bangladesh High Court to order the release of photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol pending an open trial.
TrialWatch, an initiative of CFJ, intends to monitor the criminal proceedings against Kajol, who has been held in pre-trial detention for 170 days in three cases filed under the Digital Security Act 2018. Trial dates have not been set for any of the cases, according to a CFJ press release.
“UN standards make clear pre-trial detention should be the exception, and not the rule, and that it should not be ordered if disproportionate in relation to the alleged offence and the expected sentence. The UN Human Rights Committee has further stated that excessive pre-trial detention may violate the presumption of innocence,” said the press release.
“[Kajol] is being detained on charges of defamation for which the UN Human Rights Committee has previously explained that imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty. Thus, [his] pre-trial detention is disproportionate and raises concern regarding respect for the presumption of innocence,” it added.
According to CFJ, member of parliament Saifuzzaman Shikhor filed the first DSA complaint against photojournalist and Editor of Pakshakal Kajol on March 9.
The complaint was filed after Kajol commented on and shared a story on his Facebook page alleging a sex scandal involving several high ranking politicians from the Awami League, CFJ said.
Usmin Ara Bailey, a party member of the Awami League, filed another case against Kajol under Sections 25, 26, and 29 of the Digital Security Act with Hazaribagh police station on March 10.
According to documents of the second case, Kajol was accused of engaging in extortion by obtaining information illegally and publishing false, intimidating, and defamatory information via Facebook and Messenger.
The complaint alleged that Kajol had defamed Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader, Bangladesh Jubo Mohila League President Nazma Akhter and General Secretary Apu Ukil, among others, by posting false information on social media.
In her statement, Usmin Ara Bailey said that she had filed the case after consulting with senior leaders of the ruling party.
The third DSA case against Kajol was filed on March 11.
Kajol went missing after leaving his office on March 10.
After being missing for 53 days, the photojournalist turned up in police custody on May 3 when Border Guard Bangladesh arrested him on charges of illegal trespassing on the Benapole border in Jessore. He has been in jail since then.