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Shahriar Kabir Freed

Shahriar Kabir, the IISH representative in Bangladesh who was one of around 40 opposition activists arrested on December 8 following bomb blasts in the northern town of Mymensingh, was released from prison on January 7.

Shahriar was included in a sedition case that also implicated two journalists of Britain's Channel 4 television and their local guides on a charge of resorting to anti-state activities, according to the Daily Star of December 13. Sources told the IISH that Zaiba Malik and Bruno Sorrentino had met with Shahriar, a well-known fellow journalist. Ms Malik and Mr Sorrentino were arrested on November 25 and accused of conspiring to portray Bangladesh as a stronghold of Islamic extremism. They have since been released and are back in Britain.

Earlier, Shahriar, together with a number of leaders of the Awami League, the country's major opposition party, and the historian Muntasir Mamun, who teaches at Dhaka University, was accused of "sabotage and subversive activities in the country" (The Independent, Dhaka, December 9). Muntasir was freed on January 9.

On his release, Shahriar said, "I have stepped into a bigger jail from a smaller one. The coalition government has turned the country into a bigger jail through their misrule," according to the Dhaka-based Daily Star of January 8.

On January 10, the Daily Star reported:

The leaders of South Asian People’s Union against Fundamentalism and Communalism (SAPUFC) at a press conference in the city yesterday demanded an immediate end to "gross violation of human rights, atrocities on innocent people, torture as well as deaths in custody" and establishment of rule of law in the country.

They also expressed concern over frequent abuse of Section 54 and intolerance of others’ opinions. [...]

Narrating his ordeal during detention, Shahriar Kabir, a journalist and writer, said: "I was not given food or water for 24 hours during my stay at the Cantonment cell. I was given neither bed sheet nor any blanket. I had to drink water from toilet".

"As I could not sleep for two consecutive nights, I fell sick and when my pressure went high a doctor came in and prescribed me some medicine", he said.

Shariar Kabir said he had to spend many sleepless nights in a condemned cell in Chittagong jail. During interrogation, they tied a strip of cloth over my eyes so tightly and in such a way that I felt like suffocated, narrated Shahriar Kabir, who was released from jail on January 7 following a High Court order.
Shahriar and Muntasir are leaders of the Nirmul Committee (or Committee for Resisting Killers and Collaborators of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971) and the South Asian Peoples Union Against Fundamentalism and Communalism. About a year ago, Shahriar was arrested on his return from Kolkata (Calcutta) after interviewing Hindu-minority refugees from Bangladesh. He was charged with anti-state activities and spent two months in prison until his release on a court order on January 21, 2002.

12 January 2003