Shafiqul Islam Kajol, a Bangladeshi photographer and editor of the Daily Pakkhakal magazine, was arrested on May 3, 2020, following his disappearance in March. Three separate complaints were filed against him under the Digital Security Act, accusing him of making derogatory posts online.
Kajol went missing after leaving his office in Dhaka on March 10, according to news reports. His family filed reported his disappearance to the Chawkbazar Metropolitan police station in Dhaka on March 11, and attempted to filed a report of abduction on March 16, which police refused to accept until March 18, according to those reports.
On May 3, a Bangladeshi guard at the Bangladesh-India border arrested Kajol for alleged trespassing and illegally crossing the border from India, according to news reports. Border Guard police found him tied and blindfolded in a field, according to Kajol’s son Moronon Polok, who spoke to CPJ, and TRT World. His lawyer, Jyotirmoy Barua, told CPJ that he believed Kajol had been held incommunicado by law enforcement agents during his disappearance.
A court in Jessore granted Kajol bail in March on the trespassing charges, but police immediately rearrested him under Section 54 of the criminal procedure code, which allows police to hold a suspect without a warrant, according to those reports. He was subsequently transferred to Dhaka Central Jail in June pending investigation under three complaints filed under the Digital Security Act, Barua said.
All three complaints allege that Kajol violated the Digital Security Act by criticizing political leaders and spreading false information on his personal Facebook page, where he has more than 5,700 followers, according to Barua. CPJ was unable to view Kajol’s recent Facebook posts, as nearly all of his posts were taken down or set to private by late 2020.
The first complaint, filed by Saifuzzaman Shikhor, a member of parliament with the Awami League, was filed on March 9 at a police station, in the Sher-e-Banglanagar neighborhood of Dhaka, and accused Kajol, along with 31 others, of “publishing false news and circulating it on social media,” according to The Daily Star.
The second complaint was filed at a police station in the Harazibag neighborhood of Dhaka on March 10 by Usmin Ara Beli, a member of the Jubo Mohila League Central Committee, a group affiliated with the Awami League, Barua told CPJ.
The third complaint was filed by Sumaiya Chowdhury Bonna, the joint secretary of the Dhaka North Committee political body and daughter of Mohammad Shimul Hasan, a member of the Jubo Mohila League Central Committee, at the Kamrangirchar Police Station on March 11, Barua said.
Kajol has been denied bail in all three cases by lower courts, and Barua moved Kajol’s bail application to the high court, the lawyer said, adding that no charge sheet had been filed by police as of late October in any of the cases, despite passing the 60-day deadline.
Kajol has had trouble with his eyesight, a result from being blindfolded during his time incommunicado, his son told CPJ. Polok said that Kajol’s left arm is paralyzed, and he has had respiratory problems, including coughing blood, while in detention.
Barua said Kajol was being held at Dhaka Central Jail.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for Shikhor, Beli, or Bonna. CPJ emailed the office of the prime minister and the Dhaka Central Jail for comment in late 2020 but did not receive any responses.