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British artists demand Shahidul Alam's release

  • Published at 02:19 pm September 3rd, 2018
Shahidul Alam
File photo of Shahidul Alam Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

47 of the art-world’s leading names have signed a petition to end his imprisonment

Leading artists and curators from Britain have demanded the release of photographer Shahidul Alam from Dhaka Central Jail. 

Within a week, architect Sofia Karim, the niece of Alam, who lives in Great Britain, has collected  47 signatures of leading names in the art world—to support her cause. 

Creative voices, including the film-maker and artist Steve McQueen; dancer and choreographer Akram Khan; and artists Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, have called for transparency about Alam’s alleged crimes—ahead of his bail hearing scheduled for Monday 

In support of the cause, an exhibition of his work is also being planned in Great Britain, reports The Guardian.

Leading curators, the Tate’s Frances Morris; London’s National Portrait Gallery Director Nicholas Cullinan; Gateshead’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art Director Sarah Munro; and Sophie Wright of Magnum Photos, have also signed their names to the demand.

“Freedom of speech, artistic expression, and talking truth to power are vital barometers of civilisation. Whatever is done to one person against these central pillars of a fair and tolerant society is done to all of us,” Cullinan said.

Alam’s photography focuses on exposing abuses of power, including images of the genocide of the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War.

He has also chronicled the use of state death squads and the plight of the Rohingya refugees. Alam founded the picture agencies Drik and Majority World and the photography school Pathshala South Asian Media Institute.

“When they told my uncle in jail that exhibitions around the world were being held for him, he smiled and said, ‘A big thank you’,” said Sofia.

On August 4 and 5, the photographer had gone live on Facebook, several times, to discuss clashes in the city's Jigatola area—between students demonstrating for safer roads, and police with alleged activists of ruling-party affiliate organizations.

He also talked about these issues and criticized the government during an interview with Al Jazeera TV on August 5.

He was then picked up by Detective Branch (DB)police officials from his Dhanmondi residence on August 5, and taken to the DB office, on Mintoo Road, the next day.

Later, the 63-year-old photographer was placed on a seven-day remand in a case filed under the ICT Act. He was charged with spreading fabricated information, rumours, and false information against the government via social media.