Paris-Geneva-Hong-Kong, November 24, 2016 – After 1,322 days in arbitrary detention, journalist Mr. Mahmudur Rahman has been finally released on bail this afternoon. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcome his long-overdue release, and urge authorities to drop all pending charges against him.
Acting editor of the Daily Amar Desh, a national daily newspaper in Bangladesh, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman was detained since April 11, 2013, when the police raided and shut down the offices of Daily Amar Desh, and charged Mr. Rahman with sedition. Over the past three and half years, Mr. Rahman was charged in 74 separate politically motivated cases. He was repeatedly granted bail by the Courts, but each time he was about to be released the police presented a new criminal case against him in order to keep him in jail. On November 3, 2016, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court finally upheld Mr. Rahman’s release on bail in the last case to be filed against him, but the judiciary and police took three weeks to actually release him.
“We welcome Mahmudur Rahman’s release, after more than three years in arbitrary detention for simply exercising his rights to free expression. The authorities must stop this type of harassment and repression of defenders and journalists in Bangladesh,” said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
Despite his release on bail, Mr. Rahman is still facing prosecution under 74 different criminal cases. These cases are case widely regarded to be fabricated and politically motivated, in several instances accusing Mr. Rahman of involvement in crimes that took place while he was already under police custody. It is not yet known when he will be summoned to Court for trial in these cases.
“The cases mounted against Mahmudur Rahman are a clear example of judicial harassment and must be closed. Our organisations urge the authorities to drop all charges against him,” added AHRC Representative Md. Ashrafuzzaman Zaman.
Upon his release Mr. Rahman was admitted to United Hospital in Dhaka, as his health had severely deteriorated while in detention. Mr. Rahman, now 64 years old, was subjected to several types of ill-treament and denied medical care while in jail. Doctors at United Hospital today diagnosed him with the following conditions caused by his treatment during detention: Hypertension; Malnutrition; Severe weakness and urinary problems due to dehydration; Severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome; vertigo; Severe back pain causing insomnia and difficulties walking. Mr. Rahman is still in hospital for further medical examinations and treatment.
“We strongly condemn the judicial harassment that led to the prolonged arbitrary detention of Mahmudur Rahman and the ill-treatment he suffered in this framework. We call upon the authorities of Bangladesh to order an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned facts, and to stop criminalising human rights defenders with the clear aim to muzzle them”, concluded OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award 2014.
For more information, please contact:
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 228 094 939
• FIDH: Audrey Couprie / Arthur Manet: + 33 143552518
• AHRC: Md. Ashrafuzzaman: +852 607 32 807
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