Mamun, a writer and historian, was among several prominent government critics and opposition members arrested in a series of police raids on December 8 and 9 in the capital, Dhaka. He was held under the provisions of Bangladesh’s Special Powers Act (SPA), which allows for the preventive detention of anyone suspected of anti-state activities, on suspicion of trying to destabilize the government.
Mamun, the author of several books about Bangladesh, is a professor of history at Dhaka University. He also regularly contributes columns to several Bengali-language newspapers and had recently written articles about alleged abuses committed by the army during the government’s recent anti-crime drive, Operation Clean Heart.
On December 12, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Dhaka rejected Mamun’s bail petition and ordered him to be held for 30 days in preventive detention, under the SPA, while his case was being investigated. Mamun was imprisoned at the remote Dinajpur Jail, located about 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Dhaka in northern Bangladesh, making it both difficult and expensive for lawyers and family members to visit him.
On January 5, 2003, the High Court declared Mamun’s detention illegal and ordered the government to release him within 24 hours. The court ruled that the government had failed to demonstrate sufficient grounds for Mamun’s detention. However, Dinajpur Jail officials claimed that they did not receive the court order promptly and only released Mamun on January 9.