CPJ, AFAD condemn attack on Mahmudur outside courtroom

CPJ, AFAD condemn attack on Mahmudur outside courtroom

Dhaka, July 25 (Just News): The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) have strongly condemned attack on Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman in Kushtia Sunday.

The New York-based organisation that promotes press freedom around the world, on Tuesday urged the Bangladesh authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.

In a press statement on Tuesday, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) strongly condemned the attack on Mahmudur Rahman, 65, by the activists of the ruling Awami League’s student political organisation Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), outside the court room in Kushtia district.

The daily Amar Desh had been closed down by Awami League government since 2013.

“The attack came as a response to the bail granted by Kushtia senior judicial magistrate to Mr. Rahman in a defamation case filed by BCL leader, Yasir Arafat Tushar, against Mr. Rahman in December 2017, for his allegedly derogatory remarks against the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, former President of Bangladesh and father of Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Hasina’s niece Tulip Siddiqui (at present a British Parliament Member) at a seminar in Dhaka in December 2017,” read the AFAD statement.

“After he was granted bail around 100 BCL activists confined Mr. Rahman in the court room where he was assaulted, verbally and physically. He was able to come out of the courtroom with police protection only after 4.30pm despite having received bail by noon time. However, the BCL activists attacked his car with bricks and bamboo sticks causing injuries to his face and head,” AFAD gave an account of the incident of the attack.

It also alleged that police were remained silent instead of protecting him from attackers when Mahmudur was attacked by “armed BCL goons”.

“This attack on Mr. Rahman is indicative of the escalating intolerance of the Bangladeshi government towards the opposition and dissenters,” observed the human rights body.

CPJ quoted Mahmudur Rahman from the hospital as alleging, supporters of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, ruling Awami League’s student wing, attacked and injured him as he was leaving a defamation hearing in Kushtia.

The daily newspaper Mahmudur Rahman edited was forced to shut down in 2013 and he has been jailed in the past in connection with his journalistic work, CPJ said.

"The attack against Mahmudur Rahman is illustrative of the environment in which journalists critical of the Sheikh Hasina government struggle to do their work," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy executive director.

"Authorities must condemn and take swift action against those who attacked Rahman and bring them to justice."

Rahman had just been granted bail in the defamation case when around 100 activists assembled outside the courtroom, according to reports. The men confined him to the courtroom for several hours and then attacked him with stones and sticks when he tried to leave, he was quoted to have said.

He also alleged that he requested police help but they were slow to respond and did not offer any first aid after the attack, despite his profuse bleeding. Rahman received several head injuries, including a gash on the back of his head and on his cheek, which required stitches.

Kushtia police did not immediately respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment.

CPJ has documented that Bangladesh's journalists face a diverse range of threats, from criminal defamation, to enforced disappearances, and intimidation from government and authorities, leading to high rates of self-censorship.

CPJ also said it has further documented how the present government in Bangladesh has targeted the opposition press.

Mahmudur Rahman has been seen as a dissenter by the ruling Awami League. In 2013, he was arrested on charges of sedition and inciting violence through criticism and was arbitrarily held in pre-trial detention for 1,322 days until his release on bail on 24 November 2016. Mahmudur Rahman was also tortured while in police remand several times. There were over 118 charges against him across the country, mainly on defamation and sedition.