A magistrate court in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, refused to issue the order of release for photojournalist Shahidul Alam, who has been in jail for at least 100 days. Alam was expected to be released after the High Court Division’s 15 November verdict which granted him bail in the case against him.
Alam was arrested on 5 August under the controversial Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, and was accused of making “false” and “provocative” statements on Al Jazeera and on Facebook Live during massive student protests in the capital Dhaka.
According to a report by New Age Bangladesh, the magistrate declined to issue the release order because of the government’s appeal against the verdict passed by the High Court Division. The report says, “In the appeal, the government stated that the High Court Division had granted bail to Shahidul Alam without applying its judicial mind.”
The court granted permanent bail to Alam considering his age and the time he spent behind bars.
The photojournalist had unsuccessfully applied for bail four times since being arrested in August. Alam, whose work has appeared widely in global media and who founded the renowned Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, faced a maximum 14 years in jail if he had been convicted.
Earlier, rights groups, UN rights experts, Nobel laureates and hundreds of academics had called for the immediate release of the 63-year-old, who said that he had been beaten in custody.
Alam was picked within hours of Al Jazeera broadcasting his interview in which he spoke about schoolchildren’s road safety movement. Lawyers have argued Alam’s continued detention was “a clear violation” of his fundamental rights under Bangladesh’s constitution.
Alam had told Al Jazeera at the time that the protests were the result of pent-up anger at corruption and an “unelected government… clinging on by brute force”. He was arrested the same day, the most high-profile of many protesters held on similar charges as authorities cracked down on demonstrators.
Alam was held under the ICT Act which critics say has been wielded by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stifle dissent and harass journalists.
With inputs from agencies