Renowned Bangladeshi photographer, activist rots in jail

Dhaka : Renowned Bangladeshi photographer and social activist Shahidul Alam has been languishing in jail for a month, his lawyer said on Monday, a day before a court is set to hear his bail petition.

The internationally-acclaimed photographer was arrested in the first week of August following his interview by a news channel in which he criticized the Bangladeshi government's violent response to a peaceful protest by students demanding greater road safety.

Alam's lawyer Jyotirmay Barua hoped that the court would rule in his favour on Tuesday. "There is a move to frustrate us. May be the government is annoyed with him for some reason," Barua told Efe news, adding that Alam would not be present at the hearing.

The lawyer added that a judge at the Metropolitan court in Dhaka had fixed the date for the hearing on September 11 although Alam was detained on August 6. Two petitions to bring forward the date of the hearing were rejected by the courts.

Alam's lawyers had also appealed to the Dhaka high court but it refused to look into the matter without providing any explanation, Barua said.

"This is embarrassing for the whole country. No one is able to speak here. If someone speaks up, he is facing jail or fine," the lawyer said, referring to the defamation charges against Alam.

The police accused the veteran photographer of defaming the government and spreading rumours on the social media regarding the demonstrations.

The photographer's family told Efe that they were concerned about his health, especially as Alam had accused the police of torturing him on the first day of his detention.

"The way he was picked up was unjust, his police remand was unjust. The High Court ordered an examination after he complained of torture but they (the authorities) instead checked his physical fitness," Alam's wife Rahnuma Ahmed said.

Alam was shifted to a new cell on last Friday, with better facilities, including attached bathroom, a bed, a chair and an access to library.

Alam's detention was globally condemned as a crackdown on free speech in Bangladesh.