Bangladesh: Release on bail of Mr. Mohammad Abdul Kaium

03/07/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
BGD 001 / 0519 / OBS 044.1
Release on bail /
Judicial harassment
Bangladesh
July 3, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the release on bail of Mr. Mohammad Abdul Kaium, a member of the Human Rights Defenders Network of the human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) Odhikar [1], a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network and of FIDH. Mr. Kaium is also a journalist at bdpress24.com and a web developer in Mymensingh District, Bangladesh.

According to the information received, on July 2, 2019, the Mymensingh Court granted bail to Mr. Kaium and on July 3 around 1 pm Mr. Kaium was effectively released from Mymensingh Central Jail.

The Observatory welcomes the release on bail of Mr. Mohammad Abdul Kaium but recalls that he should never have been imprisoned, as his detention was arbitrary and merely aiming at preventing him from carrying out legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory urges the authorities of Bangladesh to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in the country. 

Background information:
 
On May 11, 2019, at around 5.30 pm, Mr. Mohammad Abdul Kaium was arrested by the Detective Branch of Police of Mymensingh after he had gone to see one of his clients, Mr. Mohammad Idris Khan, aka Idris Ali [2], to receive the balance due by the latter for a news portal Mr. Kaium developed for him. Mr. Idris Khan offered to pay Mr. Kaium in US Dollars but the latter refused, saying that he would only accept his payment in Bangladeshi Taka. Mr. Kaium was arrested as he was leaving Mr. Khan’s office. The police officers accused Mr. Kaium of carrying US Dollars and being involved in “illegal business of foreign currency”. Despite that they could not find any US Dollars on Mr. Kaium, they still arrested him and took him to the Detective Branch Police station of Mymensingh.

At 10.30 pm, the Detective Branch Officer-in-charge Shah Kamal, and Sub-Inspectors Akram, Monju, Jewel, and Porimol asked Mr. Kaium to confess about taking USD from Idris Khan, which Mr. Kaium refused to do. The latter then asked to be produced before a court. The police officers became angry and then Officer-in-charge Shah Kamal and Sub-Inspector Akram slapped and kicked him. Later, Sub-Inspector Porimol asked Mr. Kaium to remove his belt and then the police officer started beating him with his belt, while Sub-Inspector Monju hit him with a wooden chair and Sub-Inspector Jewel punched in his head. As Mr. Kaium still refused to confess anything, the officers went away.

On May 12, 2019, the police informed Mr. Kaium that he was arrested under Sections 23 (“digital or electronic fraud”), 25 (“publishing, sending of offensive, false or fear inducing data-information”) and 29 (“to publish, broadcast, […] defamatory information”) of the Digital Security Act of 2018 and Sections 385 (“putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion) and 386 (“extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt”) of the Bangladeshi Penal Code.

On May 14, 2019, the Mymensingh Court rejected Mr. Kaium’s bail application. On May 16, 2019, Mr. Kaium’s lawyer filed a bail application to the Sessions Judge Court in Mymensingh, which again rejected the bail application on May 23, 2019.

Actions requested: 
 
 
Please write to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Mohammad Abdul Kaium as well as of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture against Mr. Mohammad Abdul Kaium in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Mohammad Abdul Kaium, as well as of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

iv. Conform in all circumstances to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2.;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Bangladesh.
 
Addresses:

• Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243, Email: pm@pmo.gov.bd
• Professor Dr.Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9111312 Email: advinternational@pmo.gov.bd
• Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9515541. Email: stateminister@mha.gov.bd
• Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 7168557. Email: minoflaw@law.com
• Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9562188. Email: fm@mofa.gov.bd
• Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 956 5058 /+880 2 7161344, E-mail: chief@bdcom.com or supremec@bdcom.com
• Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email: adv_mahbubey@yahoo.com
• H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 738 46 16, E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int
• Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 646 59 98; Email: bdootbrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Bangladesh.
 
***
Geneva-Paris, July 3, 2019
 
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] As a member of Odhikar’s Human Rights Defenders Network, Mr. Abdul Kaium has taken active part in the organisation’s information gathering, documentation, reporting and campaign against human rights violations. He has also carried out several fact-finding missions in the areas of rights violations, particularly on enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture.
[2] Mr. Idris Khan is the Principal of a Madrassah in Mymensing and a close relative of the ruling Awami League MP Hafiz Ruhul Amin Madani.

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