Shafiqul Islam Shafiq

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Shafiq, a photographer, was arrested on October 28 in Rajshahi, in northwestern Bangladesh. He was taken by plainclothes men believed to be members of the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite anticrime and antiterrorism force under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Journalists from the Dainik Prothom Alo daily newspaper who were allowed to visit him on October 31 reported that he had been severely beaten, had burns on his body, and had broken bones in his hands. Shafiq told reporters that interrogators used an electric prod. He said police questioned him about the murder of police officers in Manda Chowbaria, in the western Bangladeshi area of Naoga, and forced him to sign blank confession papers.

During interrogation, police told Shafiq that other journalists would also be targeted. Colleagues alleged that he was being held without evidence on trumped-up charges as a warning to the press from the Rapid Action Battalion, which media and human rights groups have accused of extrajudicial killings and torture.

Bail was set on November 1, but Shafiq was immediately rearrested and accused in the murders. Police told reporters they had proof of Shafiq’s contacts with Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen terrorists through numbers saved on his mobile phone. Despite the claims of proof, Shafiq was charged under Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows the detention of people on the suspicion of criminal activity without an order from a magistrate or a warrant. The government regularly uses Section 54 to arrest people without formal charges or specific complaints.

The day after Shafiq’s arrest, colleagues from the Rajshahi Journalists Union held a public rally to demand his release and specifically criticized the Rapid Action Battalion for harassing journalists.