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Bangladesh 21 May 2003

Journalist Atahar Siddik Khasru is found alive

Atahar Siddik Khasru was found alive on a road near the southeastern town of Sitakund on 21 May, three weeks after he went missing. His family received an anonymous phone call early in the morning saying where he had been left. When police found him, his hands and legs were chained, he had cuts on his back, legs and hands, and he had bruises all over his body. His injuries were not critical, however.

Khasru said he was kidnapped on 30 April in Chittagong near Sitakund by a group of armed men who blindfolded him, took him to an unidentified place and shut him in a dark room. He was tied up and watched by two masked men all the time he was detained. He said he was beaten with metal roads and slashed with blades. Although he never saw the faces of any of his abductors, he gave the names of several suspects to the police who interrogated him. The police refused to give these names to the news media. Talking to local journalists, Khasru blamed ruling politician Nurul Islam, general secretary of local branch of BNP, was responsible for his abduction.

05.09.2003 Journalist allegedly kidnapped by ruling party, colleague arrested for protesting

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its deep concern about the fate of journalist Atahar Siddik Khasru, who was reportedly kidnapped by members of the ruling BNP party in the southeastern town of Sitakunda on 30 April. It also expressed outrage about the arrest of fellow journalist Mahmudul Haq on 6 May after he tried to shed light on Khasru’s abduction and criticised the police for their lack of action in the case.

The organisation called on Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to do everything possible to ensure that Khasru is recovered alive, that Haq is released, and that all the BNP activists involved are identified and punished.

A journalist with the daily Dainik Ittefaq and president of the Sitakunda press club, Khasru, was abducted on 30 April after protesting about police and BNP harassment of his friend and colleague Haq, editor of the magazine Upanagar and correspondent for the pro-Islamist daily Dainik Sangram. Haq said he was targeted by police after publishing articles accusing them and certain politicians of corruption. On 29 April, Haq’s home was ransacked by BNP activists. A local BNP leader, Nurul Islam, then brought a complaint against him, accusing him of extortion and harassment.

Khasru’s family claim that Khasru was kidnapped by the same BNP activists who ransacked Haq’s home, and that their reason was Khasru’s support of Haq. Khasru had received telephone threats shortly before his disappearance. On 6 May, his brother filed a complaint against Islam and three other BNP members accusing them of responsibility for the kidnapping.

About 30 journalists marched through the streets of Sitakunda on 6 May to demand Khasru’s immediate release and the arrest of his abductors. The protest was promptly broken up by a group of thugs armed with bamboo sticks.

Haq meanwhile went to the capital, Dhaka, with the aim of asking the police authorities there to intervene in Khasru’s abduction. But police intercepted him and arrested him on a Dhaka street on the evening of 6 May, and transferred him to Chittagong where he was placed in custody for three days. He is due to appear before a judge on 10 May.

Khasru was previously kidnapped and held for about two weeks in June 2001 because of articles he had written alleging links between organised crime and the naval construction industry in Sitakunda. Police briefly arrested three suspects in this earlier kidnapping but no charges were brought against them.

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