Reporters Without Borders welcomes a Dhaka high court decision staying the cancellation of Amar Desh’s licence for three months, which allowed the opposition daily to bring out an issue today for the first time in 10 days. Amar Desh was back on the newsstands this morning with a special four-page edition that was welcomed by the newspaper’s regular readers. In the same ruling, the high court also forbad any form of torture of its editor, Mahmudur Rahman, who has been held since 2 June.
“We hail the high court’s decision to guarantee Rahman’s physical integrity and allow Amar Desh to resume publishing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At the same time, we condemn the government’s politically-motivated persecution of this opposition newspaper and we call for Rahman’s immediate release.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We also urge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s government to drop all the proceedings against Rahman and to guarantee the newspaper’s ability to continue operating after the three-month period.”
In its ruling, the high court said the police could continue to interrogate Rahman during his current 12-day period of pre-trial detention but ordered a medical examination after each session to verify that he has not been tortured. His lawyers will be allowed to watch each session but will be separated from him by a glass window.
10 June 2010
Far-fetched sedition charge brought against newspaper chief editor
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the charge of sedition that has been brought against Mahmudur Rahman, the chief editor of the opposition daily Amar Desh, and calls on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to guarantee his physical integrity, as he may have been mistreated in detention since his arrest on 2 June.
“In the space of a few days, Rahman has been accused of fraud, obstructing the police, printing an outlawed group’s posters and now sedition,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We think he is the victim of political persecution and we fear that this case marks a tragic return to the old anti-democratic practice of harassing leading opposition figures. We call for his release.”
A national daily, the now closed Amar Desh is closed to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
A journalist who has been held in the past on a sedition charge told Reporters Without Borders: “The cells are filthy, the toilets are revolting and there is little food and water. The interrogation sessions normally take place in the evening and mistreatment is common.”
The sedition charge allows the authorities to hold Rahman indefinitely until a competent court issues a verdict. The decision to bring this very serious charge was endorsed by the Awami League government’s interior minister. In support of the charge, the police said Rahman met a group of officials accused of plotting in 2006 against the government.
Two other new charges have been brought against him. One is complicity in an attempt by around 100 members of the BNP’s youth organisation to grab him from the police during his transfer from a court to a prison. The other is printing propaganda material for the banned Islamist movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
On 8 June, the Dhaka high court ordered five Amar Desh journalists to present themselves for trial on a charge of obstructing justice for resisting an attempt by around 100 people to carry out a raid on the newspaper on 2 June.
The high court is meanwhile considering a petition for the quashing of the order withdrawing the newspaper’s licence.
Read the previous article on Rahman: http://en.rsf.org/opposition-daily-closed-force-used-02-06-2010,37648.html