Reporters Without Borders today called on the interim government to order an investigation into torture and misuse of power against journalist Noor Ahmed in Sylhet, north-eastern Bangladesh.
The worldwide press freedom organisation was reacting to a just-released investigation report by human rights body Odhikar revealing that the journalist was arrested and tortured in 2007 by members of the Rapid Action Battalion in Sylhet.
The case recalls that of journalists Tasneem Khalil and Jahangir Alam Akash who were also arrested tortured by the security services in 2007.
Noor Ahmed, known as Ahmed Noor, editor of local daily Dainik Sylhet Protidin and general secretary of the Syleth Press Club, was arrested by members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB 9), the Bangladesh elite crime force, on 7 April 2007, who blindfolded and bundled him into a truck.
Noor Ahmed told Odhikar that he was tortured several times. First of all he was beaten with a stick from his knees to his feet for 20 minutes. He was then questioned about his implication in a case of extortion and beaten each time he denied it.
After a night of physical and mental torture, he signed a paper which he was unable to read and was then taken to Sylhet police station.
“The information made public by Odhikar proves that Ahmed Noor had no involvement in the case against him. It is appalling that local officials, including those responsible for law and order, can attack journalists with complete impunity, Reporters Without Borders said.
“The authorities must not remain silent on this, particularly ahead of elections. The justice system must establish the truth and punish the perpetrators of this unacceptable act.”
Noor Ahmed was arrested at the same time as two other journalists, Sajol Daash, editor of the daily Dainik Khabar, and Apurbo Sharma, reporter on the daily Dainik Jugveri, on the same charges. During his interrogation, Sajol Daash apparently implicated Noor Ahmed.
He had hardly been cleared, when another complaint was made against Ahmed Noor by Jamal Uddin, assistant head of RAB 9, who accused him of fraud, extortion and working on a newspaper at the same time as for a public body. Noor was finally acquitted by the court and released on bail on 3 September 2007.
While he was in prison, RAB officers threatened to imprison him again if he returned to journalism on his release.
The editor of Dainik Sylhet Protidin believes he was charged because he was investigating RAB’s illegal activities and an allegation that Sylhet inspector general of police, M. Shahidullah, was taking bribes. He told Odhika that his arrest was intended to intimidate other journalists to dissuade them from publishing similar reports.
When his paper published report by Odhikar that was embarrassing for the authorities on 14 May 2007, RAB agents several times demanded the closure of the paper and threatened to harm Ahmed Noor, while still in prison, unless he shut it down.