Press Release by DRIK
The recipient of Bangladesh’s highest honor, Shilpakala Padak Award (2014), globally renowned photographer, academic, and human rights activist, Dr. Shahidul Alam has been taken back to the Detective Branch (DB) police custody from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University (BSMMU) on August 8.
On August 5th, Shahidul Alam was abducted by force from his apartment by approximately 30-35 unidentified men in white plain clothes. The men came in three cars, and entered the apartment building by force at 10:30 pm. They took away phones from the building security guard, destroyed CCTV camera in the building, and took away CCTV camera hard drives, according to the FIR submitted to police.
On August 6th, Shahidul Alam’s wife, eminent anthropologist Rahnuma Ahmed, filed FIR at Dhanmondi Thana, with the above details. Following a day of national and international outcry over the abduction, and a press conference where his family lawyer Sara Hossain and eminent citizens demanded his immediate return, the Detective Branch of Police stated that they were going to file a case and then, produced him in court in connection with a case filed under Section 57 of the ICT Act for online speech which ‘hurts the image of the nation’.
At the time of his court appearance, Alam could not walk, was missing sandals, and stated to the court that he had been beaten and tortured in police custody. Witnesses say he showed clear signs of mental and physical abuse.
On August 7th, eminent jurist, Dr Kamal Hossain, with Dr Shahdeen Malik, Sara Hossain, Tanim Hossain Shawon, Jyotirmoy Barua, Aynunnahar Lipi among others, represented him in the High Court. The court ordered ‘immediate medical examination and treatment.’ The order was served by 9 pm on the various police authorities, but medical examination did not happen that night.
On August 8th morning, Shahidul Alam was finally taken to the government hospital Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), and medical examinations were conducted as informed by the Director of the Hospital, Brigadier General Abdullah-Al-Harun. Around 2 pm, Shahidul Alam was returned to the custody of the Detective Branch of Police, instead of being kept at the hospital for further observation and treatment. His lawyer was given no access to him and it was not clear what treatment if any he received. The government hospitals’ health reports are due to the High Court at 10.30 am August 9th.
The Bangladesh Government, through the Attorney General, in the meantime sought to stay the High Court order for examination and treatment of Dr Alam in hospital by moving the higher court (the Appellate Division Chamber Judge). The ADC judge referred the matter to be heard August 9th morning in the Appellate Division. The Attorney General of Bangladesh submitted that ‘Shahidul Alam had criticised the Government’ and referred to the order to place him in remand.
For Further information, please visit:
An Acclaimed Photographer in Bangladesh Says He Was Tortured, New York Times, 08 August: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/world/asia/bangladesh-photographer-shahidul-alam.html