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British artists join fight for release of Shahidul Alam

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04th-Sep-2018       
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The Guardian :
Leading British artists and curators have stepped up pressure on the Bangladeshi government to release the crusading photographer Shahidul Alam from jail in Dhaka.
Creative voices, including the film-maker and artist Steve McQueen, the dancer and choreographer Akram Khan, and the artists Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, have joined an international call for justice and transparency about Alam's alleged crimes, ahead of a bail hearing scheduled for 3 September. A British exhibition of his work is also being planned in support of the cause.
On 5 August the 63-year-old, who launched his career in Britain, was abducted by more than 30 members of the Dhaka metropolitan police and arrested for damaging "the image of the nation". The arrest follows the photographer's vocal support for student protesters in the city, many of whom were also arrested after taking part in a demonstration in response to the killing of two students by a speeding bus.
An open letter written by his niece, the architect Sofia Karim, who lives in Britain, has garnered signatures from 47 leading names in the art world in just a week. "Alam's crime, we are told, is to have contravened the Information and Communication Technology Act. Described as 'draconian' by Human Rights Watch, the act has become an infamous means of clamping down on freedom of expression in Bangladesh," the letter reads. "Given that Bangladesh presents itself as a democracy, the state should respect the right of Dr Alam, and all other citizens, to freedom of expression. Instead, he has suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of the police and judicial system."

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