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Bangladesh : FORUM-ASIA Reiterates Call for the Release of Adilur Rahman Khan and Condemns Continued Attacks on Freedom of Expression

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(Dhaka, 25 September 2013) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights group with 47 member organisations from 16 countries across Asia, expresses its deep concerns over the continued detention of Adilur Rahman Khan and deteriorating environment for freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

Adilur Rahman Khan, a lawyer of the Supreme Court, secretary of Odhikar, a national human rights organization and Executive Committee member of FORUM-ASIA was produced before the newly constituted Cyber Crimes Tribunal today and was denied bail for the third time. Representatives from FORUM-ASIA were present before the tribunal on 19 September 2013 and noted that Adilur was not produced before the court. The non-appointment of a public prosecutor in this case is a violation of right to fair and speedy trial. Adilur is being tried for alleged offences under the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006 in relation to publishing a fact-finding report.

“Irrespective of the allegations put forward by the state, fairness and due process of law must be followed at all times. The government must conduct an independent investigation on the incident and provide credible evidence to support its allegations on the report in question. Meanwhile, Adilur Rahman Khan must be released and all sections of society must come together to guard his rights and that of Odhikar’s,” said Mr. Sushil Pyakurel, former member of the National Human Rights Commission, Nepal who met with authorities on this issue between 18 to 23 September 2013.

Recent developments in Bangladesh including the blocking of a newspaper, television channels, blogs, Facebook pages, websites and arrests of bloggers and a news paper editor indicate a deteriorating environment for freedoms of expression. In particular, the hurried amendments to the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006 which is presently being considered for adoption by the Parliament is a serious threat. National and International groups have expressed serious reservations over the proposed amendments which seek to validate and intensify the vague and repressive provisions of the ICT Act.

“The increasing intolerance to voices of dissent ahead of the national election, to be held in a few months, will seriously compromise the space for democratic expression and participation. We therefore call on the government to reconsider and retract the controversial amendments to the ICT Act and to hold consultations with the NHRC and CSO groups towards securing freedom of expression on the net.” added Mr. Pyakurel.

FORUM-ASIA had facilitated a “Regional Consultation on Engagement with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association” with civil society members in Bangladesh on 21 September 2013. Prominent personalities across Asia were invited to provide a regional view on the subject and to advocate with state actors through bilateral meetings for greater protection of these rights.

“The willingness with which state authorities openly engaged during meetings requested by us is welcomed and much appreciated. However, we regretfully note that visas to Bangladesh for the participants were denied and made complicated by the High Commissions in India and Malaysia. We are further perturbed by reports that the National Security Intelligence of Bangladesh had made several enquiries about the event which is unacceptable,” said Ms. Gayatri Khandhadai, South Asia Programme Officer, FORUM-ASIA. [ENDS]

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