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Bangladesh 5 February 2002

Shahriar Kabir released on bail

Update : On February 5, a pedestrian was killed and several others injured by the explosion of fire bombs thrown by fundamentalist militants who were protesting against the presence of the journalist Shahriar Kabir in the city of Chittagong (south-eastern country). More than three hundred demonstrators had mustered in front of the press club of the town where Shahriar Kabir was addressing many journalists, intellectuals and human right militants. Once the police had tried to break up the demonstration, the fundamentalists who claimed to adhere to the "Committee to resist the traitor", hurled fire bombs. The journalist Shahriar Kabir said after the incident: "fundamentalists are trying to kill me and are the only ones to be blamed for violence today".

January 29, 2002

On January 28, we learned that journalist Shahriar Kabir is apparently being threatened by Islamic fundamentalists and fears for his life. He stated that he has been followed by the secret services, who regularly cut off his telephone and censor his mail. The Pro-Islamic daily Dainik Inqilab recently published a series of articles quoting government opinions, according to which Shahriar Kabir is an enemy of the State and of Islam.

January 21, 2002

Shahriar Kabir released on bail

Reporters without Borders (RSF) asks for "sedition" indictment still on the journalist to be lifted

After two month in custody, journalist and human right militant Shahriar Kabir was released on bail, on 20 January 2002, from the prison of Dhaka. That decision follows the judgement of January 19 by the High Court, which had demanded the release of the journalist, indicted on "sedition" charge. The journalist only obtained six-month freedom on bail although the date for his trial has not been fixed yet. He is still liable to death sentence or life imprisonment.

Dozens of people, among who his relatives, acclaimed him as he was leaving the central prison of Dhaka. During his custody, his relatives had not been authorised to visit him. The authorities did everything to delay his release, taking the absence of some high official as an excuse to postpone this one for several hours.

A few hours after leaving the prison, Shahriar Kabir declared that his release was "the evidence that all citizens have a right to freedom of expression". The journalist confirmed his project of producing a documentary on recent violence against religious minorities in Bangladesh. Shahriar Kabir said at last that he would "continue to withstand fundamentalist forces" and thanked "wholeheartedly those who canvassed for his liberation".

Reporters without Borders (RSF- Reporters sans Frontières) is pleased of this release but deplores that the "sedition" indictment still on the journalist has not been lifted yet. Shahriar Kabir has been held in custody for sixty days, in compliance with a special law, although he was only collecting information, for journalistic purposes, on the situation of Hindu refugees of Bangladeshi nationality in India. Therefore, the organisation for the defence of press freedom will go on joining forces as long as all the accusations against the journalist will not have been abandoned. All the more that, on January 21, the police have announced they would begin proceedings against the release on bail of the journalist. According to them, he is committed into "anti-State activities".

On December 2001, Reporters without Borders had met the ambassador of Bangladesh en France, to ask for the release of Shahriar Kabir. Known for his investigations on massacres during the independence war of 1971 and his fight against fundamentalism, the journalist had been acknowledged as "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International.

Shahriar Kabir had been arrested on 22 November 2001 at the international airport of Dhaka, as he was coming back from Calcutta (India). The police had seized his passport as well as five videocassettes, thirteen audiocassettes, three CD, several films non-developed and his camera. On December 9, the police lodged a complaint against the journalist according to the articles 123 A (sanctioning the condemnation of State creation and the eulogy of the abolition of its sovereignty), 124 A (dealing with sedition) and 505 A (putting down prejudices caused by resorting to language or any other means) of the penal code.


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