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Bangladesh 30 September 2003

Journalist freed and charges dismissed

Hiramon Mondol was released from prison in Khulna (southwestern Bangladesh) on 20 September and extortion charges against him dismissed by a judge, who said the Spider Web special police had failed to provide evidence. Mondol had been held since 8 August and tried under the Speedy Trial Act.

The trial of Hiramon Mondol, a reporter for the daily Prabartan, began on 1 September under the Speedy Trial Act. He is facing trumped-up charges of trying to extort money from the family of someone who killed himself. Six people have testified against him so far in the case, which was launched by the Spider Web police unit, which he accused of theft in an article. Members of the unit have twice searched his home.

Reporters Without Borders today wrote to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia calling for the immediate release of journalist Hiramon Mondol, who was viciously beaten by police in the south-western city of Khulna on 8 August and has since been held in the Khulna prison infirmary. The organisation also called for the dismissal of the patently false charge of theft that has been brought against him.

The local correspondent of the daily Dainik Prabartan, Mondol was attacked by a group of police officers who included members of a special unit assigned to combatting organised crime and extreme-left activists. They beat him with batons, hockey sticks and rifles and took him bound hand and foot to Paikgacha camp before transferring him to the prison infirmary.

The assault came just a few days after Mondol wrote an article about a theft of fish from Baroyariya market in which the perpetrators were reportedly members of the special force. He is now being prosecuted for theft under a draconian "speedy trial" procedure introduced in 2001 which frees the hands of the authorities and gives the accused no time to prepare a defence.

Mondol’s newspaper, which supports the government, said on 16 August that it intended to circulate a petition for his release.

Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the constant increase in violence against the press in recent months in Bangladesh, one of the few countries in the world where journalists face violence and open hostility from political leaders and police on a daily basis.

Since the beginning of the year, Reporters Without Borders has registered 51 physical attacks against journalists (including 10 attempted killings), 50 death threats, 13 arrests, 14 abusive lawsuits and prosecutions and five abductions.

In this country
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19 September - Bangladesh
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in the annual report
Bangladesh - Annual report 2008
Bangladesh - Annual report 2007
Bangladesh - Annual report 2006

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Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
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Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
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