They have also criticized reported arbitrary detention and remand of several hundred protesters
A group of citizens have condemned unlawful and arbitrary suppression of freedom of expression, association and assembly in the country.
In the statement issued on Wednesday, they criticized the attacks on students demonstrating for safer roads and journalists reportedly by activists of Awami League’s affiliate organizations, and condemned the arrest and remand of celebrated photographer and rights activist Shahidul Alam.
The 69 signatories included human rights activists, professionals, including teachers, doctors, and lawyers, civil society members, cultural personalities and activists, writers and academics.
They demanded that the government investigate allegations of “unlawful arrest and torture” of Shahidul in police custody and called for his immediate unconditional release.
They also demanded punishment of those responsible for the 63-year-old photographer’s alleged abduction and torture.
The statement came two days after Drik founder Shahidul was picked up from his Dhanmondi home by the Detective Branch (DB) of police.
On Monday, he was placed on a seven-day remand in a case, filed under the ICT Act at Ramna police station, for spreading fabricated information, rumours, and false information against the government via social media.
On August 4 and 5, Shahidul had live-streamed on Facebook, several times, to report the protests at Dhaka’s Jigatola. Clashes had taken place between school and college students demonstrating for safer roads, police, and allegedly, activists of ruling party affiliated organizations.
Shahidul, who is also the founder of Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, talked about these issues and criticized the government during an interview with Al Jazeera on August 5.
He was then picked up that night, and taken to the DB office, at Minto Road, the next morning. Later, he was produced before a Dhaka court for a remand hearing.
The citizens in their statement said Shahidul, while being carried into the court room, had reportedly told journalists that he was beaten, and said: “They washed my blood-stained clothes and then made me wear them again. I was not given access to any lawyer during the detention.”
The signatories strongly condemned “such repression by the government, including arbitrary police remand under the repressive ICT Act” against Shahidul.
“If anything he has done is considered against the law charges could be brought in the due process, but nothing justifies unlawful abduction, arbitrary remand and especially unconstitutional torture in custody.”
They also urged the government to stop “repression of students, academics, journalists and human rights activists immediately, release all who have been arbitrarily detained and take every step to ensure road safety, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom of association for all, without discrimination.”
The citizens also criticized reported arbitrary detention and remand of several hundred protesters, including a pregnant woman.
The pregnant woman in question is a schoolteacher in Patuakhali who was arrested several days ago for making a Facebook post in support of the student demonstrators and their movement for safer roads.
The safe roads had started on July 29 after two college students died in a road accident that day on Dhaka’s Airport Road.
Those who signed the statement issued Wednesday included Iftekharuzzaman, Hameeda Hossain, Shaheen Anam, Bashirul Haq, Zafrullah Chowdhury, M Hafizuddin Khan, Badiul Alam Majumdar, Mahfuz Ullah, Chowdhury Abrar, Robaet Ferdous, Raja Devashish Roy, Manzoor Hasan, Lubna Marium, Naila Z Khan, Shahnaz Huda, Ali Riaz, Amena Mohsin, Anu Muhammad, Khushi Kabir, Perween Hasan, Firdous Azim, Farida Akhter, Elora Halim Chowdhury, Sheepa Hafiza, Md Nur Khan, Adilur Rahman Khan, Asif Nazrul, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Sumaiya Khair, Rina Roy, Shapan Adnan, Azfar Hussain, ASM Nasiruddin Elan, Arup Rahee, Hana Shams Ahmed, Leesa Gazi, Ashraf Kaiser, Anusheh Anadil,Delwar Hussain, and Ilira Dewan.
Also, Maheen Sultan, Dina Siddiqi, Tarek Omar Chowdhury, Mirza Taslima Sultana, Zakir Hossain, Ziaur Rahman, Nasrin Siraj Annie, Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, Tasnim Azim, M Muzaherul Huq, Seuty Sabur, Wasfia Nazreen, Lamiya Morshed, Dina Hossain, Cynthia Farid, Tasaffy Hossain, MasudKhan, Muktasree Chakma, Tasmiah Afrin Mou, Elora Shehabuddin, Rashad Al, Enamul Haque, Shahadat Hossain, Khandaker Sumon, Sohini Alam, Manjida Ahamed, Ali Ahmed Ziauddin, Rezaur Rahman Lenin, and Shireen P Huq signed the statement.