Shahriar Kabir

Beats Covered:
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Kabir, a free-lance journalist and human rights activist, was detained in the capital, Dhaka, as part of a police sweep during which about 40 opposition figures were arrested. Authorities initially said that Kabir was being held in connection with a sedition case against journalists working on a documentary about the political situation in Bangladesh for Britain’s Channel 4. The government had accused the Channel 4 team of having the “malicious intent of portraying Bangladesh as an Islamic fanatical country.” Kabir was among those interviewed for the film.

During a December 12, 2002, court hearing, Kabir told investigators that he had been tortured in police custody and denied food for more than 24 hours, according to Bangladeshi press reports. He was transferred to three different jails and was last imprisoned in the southern city of Chittagong, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) from Dhaka, a move that made it difficult for his relatives and lawyers to visit.

On January 4, 2003, the High Court declared Kabir’s detention illegal and ordered his release within 24 hours. On January 5, the government ignored the ruling and ordered Kabir to remain in detention for 90 more days under the Special Powers Act, which allows for the preventive detention of anyone suspected of anti-state activities. He was finally freed on the afternoon of January 7.

This was the second time in a year that Kabir was imprisoned. An outspoken critic of the government, Kabir was arrested in November 2001 and accused by the Home Ministry of being “involved in a heinous bid to tarnish the image of Bangladesh and its government.” The charge stemmed from his reporting on the ruling party’s responsibility for a wave of attacks against Bangladesh’s Hindu minority that followed the October 2001 parliamentary elections. He was first detained under the provisions of the Special Powers Act and was later charged with treason. He was freed on January 20, 2002, following two separate High Court orders for his release.