5 Int'l writers demand Shahidul's release


Diplomatic Correspondent :
Five internationally reputed writers from US, India and Canada have urged the Bangladesh government to release noted photographer Shahidul Alam and drop all cases against him.
In a joint statement American writer and philosopher Noam Chomsky, Indian writer Arundhati Roy, American playwright and activist Eve Ensler, Canadian author Naomi Klein and Indian intellectual, historian Vijay Prashad placed the demand on September 5, Drik Picture Gallery sources said.
The writers have said that people from around the world have been writing in support of this important photographer, yet the government of Bangladesh is impassive.
 "This is our second statement. We are worried for this talented photographer" said the statement.
"In 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of Bangladesh's war for independence and father of the current Prime Minister, said,  "I have given you independence, now go and preserve it." We urge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed to honour her father's words. To preserve independence means to preserve the freedom of the press. Free Shahidul Alam," the statement read.
Shahidul Alam, 63, an internationally acclaimed photographer, is now in Dhaka central jail in a case filed under the controversial Section 57 of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act for "spreading propaganda and false information against the government". Shahidul was picked up by law enforcers from his home in the capital's Dhanmondi area on the night of August 5. The following day, police filed the case against him.
He was placed on a seven-day remand after police produced him in a Dhaka court on August 6, seeking a 10-day remand.
In court, Shahidul said he was tortured in custody. Police, however, denied the allegation.
On completion of his seven-day remand, Shahidul was denied bail and sent to jail by a Dhaka court on August 13.
On September 4, a judge of the High Court bench felt "embarrassed" to hear Shahidul's bail petition in the case against him.
The bench, however, did not disclose a reason for it.
The High Court on September 5 directed the government to give division facilities in jail to Shahidul Alam.
Earlier on August 10, the group of writers issued their first statement in support of Shahidul, saying "The government of Bangladesh must immediately release him, drop all charges and negotiate in good faith with the students."
 "Anything less than that stands as a rebuke to justice and liberty, decency and hope for a better future," the statement added.
Many notable personalities, including Nobel Laureate Dr Amartya Sen along with 11 other Nobel Prize winners, have also called for immediate release of Shahidul Alam.