Bangladesh: pardons of teachers not enough says Amnesty

University lecturers charged for encouraging students to protest against military-backed regime freed after presidential pardon

Amnesty International today welcomed the pardon and release of three Dhaka university professors, but said they should never have been charged in the first place.

They were sentenced to three years in jail last week – a fourth man was acquitted. The three were convicted of inciting violence against the imposition of emergency rule by the military-backed caretaker government. They had been accused of encouraging their students to protest against the regime.

However, President Iajuddin Ahmed, fearing a backlash from students and the wider academic community, signed a clemency order yesterday.

Amnesty International considered the Dhaka University lecturers to be prisoners of conscience and had been calling for their immediate and unconditional release. The professors had been held without bail since last August.

Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said:

“Charges should never have been brought against the professors in the first place.

“The arrest and prosecution of the Dhaka University professors is illustrative of the manner in which emergency regulations are open to abuse in cases involving the right to peaceful protest.

“The restrictions imposed through the Emergency Powers Rules exceed what is permissible under international law. The current rules and restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association are too widely framed and are being selectively applied.”

Amnesty International calls on the Caretaker Government to urgently review and amend the restrictions on rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association invoked under the state of emergency.

Bangladesh has been under emergency rule since January 2007.

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