A warrant was issued for the arrest of Mahmudur Rahman, the editor of the opposition daily Amar Desh, on 29 March, just two weeks after he was released from prison. He is accused of libelling senior Awami League officials in the southern town of Kotalipara. The Awami League has governed Bangladesh since 2008. Rahman is to be tried next month.
Reporters Without Borders urges the government to put an immediate stop to this political persecution of a newspaper editor who has just served a nine-month jail sentence on a similar charge.
Opposition editor released after nine months in prison on contempt charge
Reporters Without Borders welcomes today’s release of Mahmudur Rahman, the editor of the opposition daily Amar Desh, on completion of an arbitrary jail sentence for contempt of court. Held for a total of nine months and 17 days, Rahman was greeted as he left prison by family members, opposition leaders and fellow journalists.
The press freedom organization calls on President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to end the political harassment that many opposition journalists have had to endure, including Rahman and members of his staff.
Rahman was arrested on 2 June 2010 on charges of fraud, libel, obstructing the police and sedition. A Dacca high court found him guilty of contempt of court on 19 August in connection with an article that accused judges of always granting injunctions requested by the government.
The court sentenced him to six months in prison and a fine of 100,000 Taka (990 euros), with the proviso that he would have to serve an additional month if the fine was not paid. As he was unable to pay it, he had to serve the extra month.
Court passes jail sentences on newspaper editor and reporter
Reporters Without Borders deplores yesterday’s decision by the supreme court to impose a six-month jail sentence on Mahmudur Rahman, the acting editor of the opposition daily Amar Desh, and a one-month jail sentence on Oliullah Noman, one of his reporters, for contempt of court.
“The authorities are trying to relieve prison overcrowding by freeing lots of detainees, yet the supreme court has passed jail terms on these two journalists,” Reporters Without Borders. “This is absurd. The government and the courts are making a mistake by targeting the opposition media. They are not the enemy.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We call on President Zillur Rahman to pardon Rahman and Noman, who have no place being in detention, especially as this jail sentence will prevent Rahman from taking over the running of the newspaper again or being a candidate in elections.”
Headed by Chief Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim, the supreme court panel found Rahman and Noman guilty of contempt of court in connection with an article published last April that angered judges by accusing them of granting injunctions requested by the government.
The court also fined Rahman 100,000 takas (1,000 euros) and Noman 10,000 takas, with the proviso that they will have to serve additional jail terms if the fines are not paid. News editor Mostahid Faruqui and deputy editor Syed Abdal Ahmed were acquitted.
Detained since 1 June, Rahman has been mistreated while in detention. He is due to be tried soon on another contempt court charge for an article headlined “Farce in the name of independent justice.”
He is also facing charges of sedition and fraud. The investigators in these cases have not yet transmitted their findings to the judicial authorities.