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100 days on from Shahidul Alam’s arrest

  • Published at 01:35 am November 13th, 2018
Shahidul Alam
Shahidul Alam being taken to court on August 6, a day after his detention Dhaka Tribune

The lawyers had placed the bail petition before a lower court and then the High Court, but are yet to receive a final decision

One hundred days on from the arrest of renowned photographer Shahidul Alam, his counsels have said they are frustrated as they are still waiting for the final decision from the court on his bail petition. 

The lawyers had placed the bail petition before a lower court and then the High Court, but are yet to receive a final decision.

Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, one of Shahidul Alam’s counsels, told the Dhaka Tribune they were continuing their efforts to secure bail for Shahidul Alam, but have failed so far.  The lawyers are now moving to the High Court to hold a hearing on a rule which questioned the legality of Shahidul’s bail being rejected by a trial court.

Previously, a High Court bench said it felt “embarrassed” to hold a hearing on Shahidul’s bail petition.

Barrister Jyotirmoy said they were frustrated with the outcome of legal battle they have been fighting. “Our lone success was getting a court order for a medical  examination of Shahidul Alam after allegations of torture in police custody surfaced. That’s all.”

Furthermore, the counsels have observations on the medical examination report. 

“We wanted to get his health examined to get an assessment of whether he was tortured or not. But the medical report said he had no diseases. This is not the same,” Jyotirmoy said.   

Legal moves bring no result

According to the first information report filed by DB (North Division) Inspector Mehedi Hasan with Ramna police station, Shahidul was charged under section 57(2) of the ICT Act because he used electronic media to instigate disorder in the country, and spread fabricated information and rumours via social media.

The FIR also mentioned that his remarks were aimed at worsening law and order, tarnishing the image of the country, and hurting the sentiments of students.

After his arrest. a Dhaka court placed him on seven-day remand on August 6.

Shahidul had informed the court that he was tortured in custody. “I was hit [in custody]. [They] washed my blood-stained punjabi and then made me wear it again,” Shahidul Alam said when he was produced before the court. Police refuted the allegation.

Jyotirmoy said Shahidul gave his account of torture before a magistrate, but it was not recorded. “The magistrate did not order for a medical examination either.”

According to media reports, Shahidul Alam had to file a writ petition with the HC seeking a medical examination. As per the HC directive, a medical report was submitted before a trial court, but the court gave no further order.

Shahidul’s ad-interim bail application was filed with the Sessions Judge’s Court, but was kept pending for hearing. Subsequently, Shaidul’s counsels moved with the HC.

After the High Court bench said it felt embarrassed to hear the case, the chief justice assigned a different High Court bench to dispose of the petition. 

However, while the newly assigned HC bench was holding a hearing on the bail petition, the Sessions Judge Court finally scheduled their hearing on the bail petition that had been rejected by a Magistrate’s Court. The High Court asked the counsels to complete the hearing at the lower court.

Subsequently, the Sessions Judge Court also rejected the bail petition. When Shahidul moved to the High Court, the court issued the rule asking why the renowned photographer should be denied bail.

At the hearing on the rule, the court did not give a decision and dropped the matter from the cause list.

The counsels are now preparing for another hearing on the rule at a different bench of the High Court. 

Timeline since Shahidul Alam’s detention

August 5: Internationally-acclaimed photojournalist Shahidul Alam, 63, is picked up by law enforcement officials from his Dhanmondi flat, hours after he had given an interview on the student protests for road safety in Bangladesh to Doha-based television channel Al Jazeera

August 6: A Dhaka court places him on seven-day remand for interrogation in a case filed with Ramna police station. The case statement filed by the DB says Shahidul was charged under section 57(2) of the ICT Act because he used electronic media to instigate disorder in the country and spread fabricated information and rumours via social media. The FIR also mentioned that his remarks were aimed at worsening the law and order situation, tarnishing the image of the country and hurting the sentiments of students by spreading rumours. ‘I was hit [in custody]. [They] washed my blood-stained punjabi and then made me wear it again,’ Shahidul Alam said when he was produced before the court on August 6. Police refuted the allegation.

August 7: Shahidul’s partner Rahnuma files a writ petition demanding he receive medical treatment. HC directs the authorities to immediately send him to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital, arrange a medical examination, and submit a report on August 9.

August 8: Shahidul is taken to BSMMU Hospital following the HC order. BSMMU authorities form a four-member medical board to examine his physical and mental condition. According to the board’s report submitted to the HC, he was physically and mentally sound.

August 9: Police produce him before the CMM Court, and the court places him on seven-day remand. During a hearing, the defence argues before the HC that there was no psychologist on the medical board to examine his mental condition. Later, the court directs the home secretary to arrange an examination to determine whether Shahidul was tortured in custody and submit a report.

August 10: Twenty-four civil society groups call for Shahidul Alam’s immediate and unconditional release

August 11: Prime Minister’s ICT Advisor Sajeeb Wazed Joy in a Facebook post says Shahidul Alam’s claim of torture is another of his false accusations against the government. Joy claims Alam pretended to be hurt in front of the cameras.”This just proves how dishonest Shahidul Alam is.”

August 12: A Dhaka court sends Shahidul to jail, rejecting his bail petition, after police produce him before the court on completion of his seven-day interrogation.

August 26: Amartya Sen voices support for Shahidul Alam

August 28: British MP Tulip urges Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to release Shahidul Alam

September 4: A HC bench declines to hear his bail petition as a judge feels embarrassed.

September 5: The HC directs the authorities concerned to provide first class division status to Shahidul Alam

September 7: Noam Chomksy, Arundhati Roy call for Shahidul’s release

September 10: A High Court bench directs the lower court to dispose of Shahidul’s bail petition

September 11: Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge KM Imrul Kayes rejects Shahidul’s bail petition submitted by Barrister Sara Hossain

September 17: A chamber judge of the Appellate Division upholds the HC order providing first class division status to Shahidul, and asks the state to file leave to appeal over the matter

September 18: Shahidul files a bail petition with the HC in the case filed under the controversial Section 57 of the ICT Act, accusing him of “spreading propaganda against the government”

October 7: The HC issues a ruling asking the government why acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam should not be granted bail

November 1: A High Court bench drops Shahidul Alam’s bail petition from the cause list. The HC finds inconsistencies between what the DB alleged Shahidul said in his interview with Al Jazeera and on Facebook’s live in the FIR and what he actually said 

After the hearing, Barrister Sara Hossain tells the court that the statement in the FIR and remarks made by Shahidul in the videos did not corroborate 

November 6: Shahidul files a bail petition with another bench of the HC