Final week, 53 days after his suspicious disappearance on March 10, Bangladeshi journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol was “discovered” by authorities in Benapole, 150 miles from Dhaka the place he was final seen. On Might 3, border guards apparently found Kajol, the editor of the day by day newspaper Dainik Pokkhokal, in a area close to the Bangladesh-India border, blindfolded and along with his legs and arms sure.
Whereas it’s a reduction to study that Kajol is alive, his discovery is certainly not the top of his ordeal. Within the quick days that adopted, the photojournalist confronted 5 fees in opposition to him: three below the nation’s notorious Digital Safety Act and two additional circumstances introduced after his discovery.
One other Journalist Disappears in Bangladesh
As an alternative of guaranteeing his wellbeing and swift launch, Kajol was accused of trying to illegally cross the border into Bangladesh, arrested and detained on fees of trespassing and coming into the nation with out authorized documentation. His 20-year-old son, Monorom Polok, acquired a telephone name from an officer at Benapole police station informing him of his father’s scenario. Polok instantly made the six-hour journey from the household house in Dhaka to see his father and attend his listening to in Jessore.
Though trespassing is a bailable offense in Bangladesh, and the courtroom ordered that Kajol be granted bail, the authorities have refused to launch him. Later that day, Polok discovered that police filed an extra case in opposition to him below the extensively criticized Part 54 of the Prison Process Code — a regulation used to detain anybody below suspicion, with out requiring proof or proof — so as to justify his prolonged captivity. However this cost was introduced after the bail listening to, which means that Kajol ought to have been launched.
The day earlier than his disappearance, Kajol was one in all 32 people subjected to a felony defamation grievance by an Awami League MP, Saifuzzaman Shikhor, dealing with accusations of publishing defamatory information within the type of a Fb publish concerning the alleged involvement of Shikhor and different figures with a feminine escort service. Underneath the nation’s repressive Digital Safety Act, Kajol faces as much as seven years in jail. His disappearance, and suspected torture, seem like closely linked.
Over 500 folks have been victims of suspicious disappearances in Bangladesh over the past decade, a lot of them journalists. The Reporters With out Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index ranks Bangladesh 151 out of 180 nations, attributing its poor place to the more durable strategies adopted by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the ruling Awami League occasion.
RSF explicitly criticizes the 2018 Digital Safety Act — below which Kajol has been charged — calling it a “custom-made judicial weapon for silencing journalists.” Amnesty Worldwide has confused how the act violates the Worldwide Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty to which Bangladesh is a celebration.
Though a lot stays unknown about what Kajol skilled through the a number of weeks he was unaccounted for and what sentence he could obtain, one factor is evident: his life is in danger. The World Well being Group has measured Bangladesh’s closed-case demise price from the COVID-19 illness at over 4 occasions that of India and 10 occasions increased than Sri Lanka. As a result of outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Bangladesh, the courts are presently closed, and it seems probably that his trial shall be placed on maintain till the specter of the pandemic passes.
In response to Polok, “The difficulty that’s taking our sleep away in the mean time is his well being.” Whereas the prisoner capability in Bangladesh is 41,000, the present variety of prisoners is 90,000 — greater than double. Kajol’s household is gravely involved concerning the elevated threat he faces of contracting COVID-19 in Bangladesh’s overcrowded prisons, significantly as an older, weak inmate.
The day after Kajol was found, 874 law enforcement officials examined optimistic for the illness, and guards and prisoners face a better threat of catching and transmitting the virus. In courtroom, law enforcement officials wore protecting clothes and face masks whereas Kajol had no safety.
In Bangladesh, many prisoners — together with these sentenced for essentially the most severe crimes of homicide and rape — have been allowed to depart confinement for his or her well being and security. Sheikh Hasina has urged Bangladeshis to point out humanity and keep at house so as to comprise the pandemic. With prisoners world wide being launched or permitted to serve their sentence at house to guard them from the unfold of the virus, Kajol’s household desperately hopes he’ll obtain comparable therapy.
Polok continues: “My mom has stopped consuming and sleeping. Her wage has stopped due to COVID-19. We have no idea the right way to run our household and combat this authorized battle.”
Since his father disappeared, Polok has run a relentless marketing campaign to attract curiosity to the case. He even held an on-line pictures exhibition, “Final Man Standing,” of his father’s work final month that has been seen by over 200,000 folks, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has meant bodily protests are unimaginable. Sustaining public consideration on the case issues, and plenty of imagine it led to Kajol being “discovered.” It’s exhausting and thankless, however Polok pledges to proceed combating till his father is free, telling us: “I’m not doing any of this for my profit; I’m doing this as my responsibility to my father.”
Finally, the brutal method of Kajol’s disappearance, the a number of and illogical fees which have been introduced in opposition to him, and the obvious political nature of those assaults on his freedom of expression increase severe human rights considerations.
Worldwide human rights legal guidelines require governments to guard the appropriate to freedom of expression. So long as Kajol stays in custody, and with the closure of courts proscribing his potential to problem his detention, we are going to proceed to name on the Bangladeshi authorities to launch him.
*[Alannah Travers is the vice-chair of the Labour Marketing campaign for Human Rights. For normal updates and so as to add help to the marketing campaign, comply with @whereiskajol.]
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.