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Odhikar secretary, director indicted

Bangladesh on 14 January 2014
Location : Bangladesh | Source : The Daily Star. Image Source Indrajit Ghost

Two officials of the rights body Odhikar were indicted yesterday for running “a distorted report and doctored images” on the May 6 police action on a Hefajat-e Islam rally in the capital's Motijheel.

The two are Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman Khan and its director ASM Nasiruddin Elan.

On June 10 last year, Detective Branch (DB) of police filed a general diary (GD) with the Gulshan Police Station in this connection, which was later converted into a case.

Rejecting the discharge petitions of the two accused in the case, Judge KM Shamsul Alam of the Cyber Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka yesterday framed charges against the accused and fixed January 22 for starting trial.

After the charges were read out in the court, Adilur and Nasir, now on High Court bail, pleaded innocence and demanded justice.

If found guilty, the accused might face up to 14 years in jail or a fine of Tk 1 crore each under the ICT act, 2006 and seven years' jail term each under the penal code.

Detectives arrested Adilur at Gulshan on August 10 last year shortly after filing the GD complaining that the rights body on its website ran a false report titled “Assembly of Hefajat-e Islam Bangladesh and Human Rights Violation”. The report tarnished the image of the country, its government and the law enforcement agencies, read the GD.   

Following his arrest, Adilur was placed on five-day police remand.

During yesterday's hearing, defence lawyer Ruhul Amin Bhuiyan told the court that his clients “did not run any false news”. The government did not publish any correct list of victims who died during the May 6 police crackdown on the Hefajat rally, he added.

He claimed that the charges brought against his clients were “false and fabricated” and prayed the court discharge the accused from the charges.       
The prosecution argued for framing charges against the accused under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 and the penal code.

Odhikar's report claimed that 61 people died in the wee hours of May 6 when the law enforcers flushed several thousand Hefajat activists out of the Shapla Chattar in the capital's Motijheel. The government, however, put the number of deaths at 13.

Briefing the press at the media centre of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) on August 10 last year, Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of DMP, said no lethal weapons were used to drive the Hefajat men out of the Shapla Chattar. Law enforcers only used tear gas shells, sound grenades and water cannons to disperse the Hefajat men, he added.

Referring to the violent incidents at Paltan and Motijheel areas between May 5 morning and early hours of May 6, he said a total of 13 people, including police officials, transport workers and pedestrians, died in those incidents.

On the pictures used in the Odhikar report, Monirul said though the report was based on the incidents of that night, some pictures were of those who had died earlier in the day (May 5), and some were of people who are still alive.

CHARGE SHEET
After probing the case, the DB on September 4 last year pressed charges against Adilur and Elan.

“We've investigated the Odhikar's fact finding report uploaded on its website in Bangla and English on June 10 and found numerous distortions and false and fabricated information,” Monirul told newsmen on September 4 at his office, quoting the charge sheet.

The cover page of the report also carried doctored images. In one photo, an injured Hefajat activist was shown as dead. Photographs of four other people, who died earlier in the day at other places, were shown as the victims of the police raid, mentioned Monirul.

“The distorted report and the doctored images might instigate the religious sentiment of the Muslims and malign the law enforcers and the country as well as the government at home and abroad,” he added.

Detectives on August 11 last year raided the Odhikar's Gulshan office and seized three laptops and two desktop computers, which were used to prepare the fake list of 61 dead victims.

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