Bengali Journalist Denied Bail

An elderly British-Bangladeshi journalist who faces potential death sentence in Bangladesh has been denied bail.

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Shafik Rehman, an 81-year-old British citizen, was arrested in April this year due to his activities as a journalist and opposition activist. At a bail hearing on Tuesday 7th June, a judge denied bail to Mr Rehman.

Mr Rehman is a prominent journalist and a former speechwriter for the opposition Bangladesh National Party, leading to speculation that his arrest is politically driven.

He has been detained without charge since his arrest however the Bangladeshi authorities have suggested that they will charge him in relation to an suspected conspiracy to kidnap the son of the Bangladeshi Prime Minister.

The government haven’t put forward any evidence for this conspiracy theory or Mr Rehman’s involvement in it. In 2015, a judge in the US dismissed the accusations on grounds of inadequate evidence.

Mr Rehman has been held in poor conditions ever since his arrest, and had to be rushed to hospital last month after spending numerous weeks in solitary confinement without a bed.

He is still in hospital, in a wing of Dhaka Central Jail and his family are hugely concerned for his health but are helpless to do anything.   Mr Rehman’s arrest arises among criticism of the Bangladeshi government following a sequence of recent attacks and arrests involving journalists, bloggers and opposition activists.

In its 2015 human rights report on Bangladesh, the UK Foreign Office called for “an effective justice system, and a vibrant civil society and free media, able to challenge and hold authority to account” in Bangladesh.

Maya Foa, Director of the Death Penalty Team at Human Rights Organization Reprieve said: 

“It is deeply worrying that the Bangladeshi authorities have seen fit to deny bail to an elderly journalist, in what is clearly part of a wider crackdown on the government’s critics.

“Months on from Shafik Rehman’s arrest, the authorities have failed to make any case against him – meanwhile, his family in Britain are desperately worried that he could face the death penalty, or that his health will fail in detention.

“The UK and other countries with close ties to Bangladesh must now urge Mr Rehman’s release, before it’s too late.”

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