Bangladesh: TV producer faces real risk of torture, says Amnesty

Beatings, electric shocks and suspension from the ceiling could lie in wait

Beaten by security forces, subjected to electric shocks and suspended from the ceiling. This is the tale of a Bangladeshi television reporter who criticised the security forces – and unless a High Court ruling is adhered to Amnesty International fears he could face the same again in the next few days.

Jahangir Alam Akash, who is also head of two human rights organizations, produced a television report that alleged that the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had shot a man offering no resistance in his own home and in front of his own family. It aired on 3 May 2007.

He was arrested five months later at his house in the northwestern city of Rajshahi. He was charged with extortion, a charge widely believed to be false and politically motivated. It was during his incarceration that he claims to have been tortured by the RAB.

He was released on bail in November, but the Home Ministry told the police to use Emergency Power Rules (EPR) which are usually applied to detainees whom the authorities want to prevent from being released on security grounds. This means that Jahangir Alam Akash's bail is nullified and he has to return to detention.

His lawyers won a High Court ruling ensuring that EPR provisions should not be applied to his case, but despite that the authorities have nevertheless gone ahead and issued a new arrest warrant for him.

Tim Hancock, Campaigns Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“Amnesty International is deeply concerned by these developments. If Jahnangir Alam Akash is re-arrested he faces a real risk of torture.

“We are calling on all of our members worldwide to write to the Bangladeshi authorities as a matter or urgency to express their concern.

“The reports of his torture need to be investigated by an independent, impartial and competent body, and those responsible need to be brought to justice.”

Background information:
· Amnesty International has asked its members to write, fax or email Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, the Chief Adviser of Bangladesh, and His Excellency Mr. Sabihuddin Ahmed, the High Commissioner for Bangladesh in London.

· Jahangir Alam Akash is the local head of two NGOs, the Task Force against Torture and the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights. His concern with human rights has been a powerful influence on his work as head of the Rajshahi office of the independent TV station CBS News.

· A state of emergency was imposed in Bangladesh in January 2007.

· Subsequently the President issued The Emergency Powers Ordinance, 2007 and the Emergency Powers Rules, 2007. The EPO provides the legal basis for the State of Emergency and EPR lay down the rules that govern the State of Emergency.

· The two ordinances provide far-reaching powers to law enforcement agencies, including the power to arrest anyone without a warrant on suspicion of seeking to engage in a "prejudicial act", a breach of the EPO, or a criminal offence.

· Under the rules, processions, meetings, assemblies or demonstrations or participation in them are not allowed unless they relate to "religious, social, state or governmental programmes are permissible". The restrictions have been partially lifted in Dhaka to allow for some political meetings but they remain in force in the rest of the country.

· The EPR are so broadly formulated that it is open to abuse by law enforcement personnel.

· It has frequently been used as a punitive measure to detain those criticising army or RAB operations.

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