DHAKA: An award-winning photographer who accused Bangladesh officers of assaulting him after his arrest during major protests in Dhaka was back in police custody after a medical checkup, an official said yesterday. Shahidul Alam, 63, was detained by plainclothes police at his home Sunday after giving an interview to Al Jazeera about the student demonstrations, an arrest which drew condemnation from international rights groups. The high court on Tuesday ordered authorities to transfer Alam to hospital. “We have completed the checkup and he didn’t need hospital admission. He was taken back after the procedure,” Bangabandhu hospital director Brigadier General Abdullah al Harun told AFP.
Doctors would report on Alam’s condition to a higher court, he added. Alam had been remanded in custody by a lower court for violating controversial laws on internet speech, but the remand order was suspended by a higher court. He was accused of making “false” and “provocative” statements as tens of thousands of students protested in Dhaka to demand improvements to road safety and an end to corruption.
The renowned photographer told reporters outside a magistrate’s court on Monday that he had been beaten so badly in police custody that his tunic needed washing to get the blood out. On Tuesday morning he was shifted to hospital, his wife Rahnuma Ahmed told AFP, adding he looked better than during his appearance in court when he seemed shaken and was limping. “He was walking by himself,” she said.
Alam’s arrest capped a turbulent week in Bangladesh as students poured onto the streets in Dhaka and elsewhere after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus. The rallies lasted nine days, with demonstrations at the weekend and Monday turning violent with more than 150 people injured. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and mobs allegedly aligned with the government attacked demonstrators, journalists and even the US ambassador’s car. Alam founded the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, a photography school in Dhaka that spawned hundreds of photographers. He shot images of the demonstrations and discussed the protests on Facebook Live.
New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded his release, denouncing authorities for targeting activists and journalists instead of prosecuting those responsible for unlawfully attacking student protesters. The protests seemed to have fizzled out on Tuesday, with students telling AFP they feared further government repression if the demonstrations continued. – AFP