Journalist targeted in bomb attack

New York, February 7, 2002—On February 5, explosions from several homemade bombs rocked the area surrounding the Chittagong Press Club, where journalist Shahriar Kabir was attending a reception to celebrate his release on bail. One bystander was killed in the attack, and several others were injured. Kabir was not harmed.

Kabir, a documentary filmmaker, regular contributor to the national Bengali-language daily Janakantha, and author of several books about Bangladesh’s war for independence, was arrested on November 22 for “anti-state activities on the basis of intelligence reports and at the instruction of higher authorities,” according to a police report. He was released on bail on January 20, 2002.

“CPJ condemns this senseless act of violence,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Bangladeshi authorities must swiftly and thoroughly investigate this incident and apprehend those responsible. Kabir and all Bangladeshi journalists must be allowed to live and work in safety.”

About 300 members of a newly formed group called the Action Committee to Resist a Traitor held demonstrations outside the press club during the reception, according to local and international press reports. The group had earlier declared that Kabir was not welcome in Chittagong. Kabir has been a long-time opponent of Muslim fundamentalism.

On November 22, police at Dhaka’s Zia International Airport arrested Kabir when he returned to Bangladesh from India, where he had interviewed minority Bangladeshi Hindus who fled there following attacks against their community after the October 1 parliamentary elections.

On December 8, the government charged Kabir with treason. His detention was later extended by another three months.

On January 12, 2002, in response to a habeas corpus petition, a High Court bench declared the extension of Kabir’s detention illegal and ordered the journalist’s release.

However, Kabir continued to be held on the treason charge. On January 19, a separate High Court bench ordered Kabir released on interim bail for six months, pending his treason trial. The High Court also issued a “show cause” notice to the government asking prosecutors to demonstrate why Kabir should not be granted bail.

On January 20, authorities released Kabir from Dhaka Central Jail, where he was greeted by hundreds of colleagues, relatives, and other supporters. The treason charge against Kabir has not yet been dropped.