Journalist freed from jail, charges dropped

New York, September 30, 2003—Hiramon Mondol, a local correspondent for the daily Dainik Prabarttan, was released from jail and exonerated from extortion charges on September 20 by the Magistrate of the Special Tribunal Act in Khulna, a town in southwestern Bangladesh, according to local news reports.

Police and security forces brutally attacked Mondol with hockey sticks and rifles on August 8 after he wrote an article accusing them of stealing fish from local fishermen, said local journalists. Police then arrested Mondol and formally charged him with extortion under the Speedy Trial Act, which denies bail to defendants.

Local journalists and Mondol’s family said that the attack was directly related to Mondol’s article about the police, and that the charges against him were false.

Mondol’s trial began on September 1. Although police produced several witnesses to testify against Mondol, local press reports alleged that the police pressured the witnesses into providing false testimony. Charges against Mondol were dropped after police failed to make a convincing case against him.

“Hiramon Mondol’s release from jail and his exoneration from these trumped up extortion charges, mark a rare victory for journalists in Bangladesh,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “We are relieved that Mondol is free, but call on those responsible for attacking him and fabricating these charges against him to be held accountable.”