More than 30 prominent personalities, including writers, historians, actors and intellectuals from South Asia, on Tuesday called on the Bangladesh government to immediately release photographer and activist Shahidul Alam from detention. The letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came on the 100th day of Alam’s imprisonment.
Alam was arrested on August 5 for his social media posts supporting the student protests in the capital Dhaka. The 63-year-old was charged with spreading propaganda and false information against the government and is currently lodged in Dhaka Central Jail.
Among the letter’s 34 signatories are writers Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth and Mohammad Hanif, filmmakers Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Aparna Sen, sculptor Anish Kapoor, actors Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi, historians Ramchandra Guha and Romila Thapar, and journalists Rajdeep Sardesai, Patricia Mukhim and Kanak Mani Dixit.
“As well-wishers of Bangladesh and supporters of its 166 million citizens’ struggle for dignity, social justice and prosperity, we are distressed by the continued imprisonment of photographer and cultural activist Shahidul Alam,” said the letter.
The government was using Alam’s case as a means to suppress criticism by members of civil society, claimed the signatories. “His arrest and continued detention appear to be manifestation of an intolerant political atmosphere, an attempt to threaten and silence the voice of Bangladeshi citizens,” they said. A Dhaka court in September had rejected Alam’s bail petition.
Alam’s laywers said they were continuing efforts to secure bail, reported the Dhaka Tribune. “Our lone success was getting a court order for a medical examination of Shahidul Alam after allegations of torture in police custody surfaced,” said barrister Jyotirmoy Barua.