Calm returns to Dhaka as students' protests dwindle; court orders police to admit arrested photojournalist Shahidul Alam to hospital

While journalists' groups called for proper investigation over attacks on media persons covering the protests, there was relative calm in Dhaka throughout Tuesday with buses returning to streets after the Cabinet approved a new road safety law.

N Ahasan August 08, 2018 11:49:59 IST
Calm returns to Dhaka as students' protests dwindle; court orders police to admit arrested photojournalist Shahidul Alam to hospital

Bangladesh’s nine-day-long youth protests for safer roads have dwindled down following the heavy-handed police response towards protesters. While journalists' groups called for proper investigation over attacks on media persons covering the protests, there was relative calm in Dhaka throughout Tuesday with buses returning to streets after the Cabinet approved a new road safety law.

However, the three private universities — which turned battlefield between protesting students and the police on Monday — remained closed on Tuesday. While Brac University is scheduled to be open Wednesday and East West University on Thursday, North South University has been closed indefinitely. The education ministry has invited all vice-chancellors of private universities to a meeting to be held on Wednesday to discuss clashes between students and the police.

Calm returns to Dhaka as students protests dwindle court orders police to admit arrested photojournalist Shahidul Alam to hospital

File image of activist-photographer Sahidul Alam. Image courtesy: GooglePlus/shahidulalam1

Meanwhile, in a major development, the high court has asked to send Shahidul Alam, an internationally acclaimed photographer and activist, to a hospital for treatment. The court also fixed Thursday for further hearing on the issue.

"Since the court has ordered him to be admitted to a hospital immediately, we hope that his remand would be postponed till then," said Dr Kamal Hossain, the chief of Shahidul’s legal team comprising of well-known legal experts.

He was picked up by police Monday for his Facebook posts related to protests and "provocative comments" made in a scathing Al-Jazeera interview conducted hours before his arrest.

While being taken to a court for a remand hearing, he seemed unable to walk on his own. He alleged that he was badly treated in police custody and forced to re-wear his blood-stained clothes.

He was then placed in a seven-day remand under the notorious Section 57 of ICT Act on charges of "spreading propaganda and false information against the government". His wife, Rehnuma Ahmed, has challenged the decision today in a writ-petition filed with the high court.

"Following his detainment, he was tortured before being presented to the court. He’s also ill. His constitutional and fundamental rights have been violated by placing him in remand," Tanim Hussain Shawon, a lawyer for Shahidul, told reporters.

Bdnews24 (Bangla) reports, as Sarah Hossain, another member of Shahidul’s legal team, was arguing for her case, Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain, of the two-judge bench, interrupted her saying, “(You are) lucky that (they) didn’t disappear him.”

In another development, a minister has trashed statements from the United Nations and the US Embassy over attacks on student protesters demanding road safety. Calling on for these statements to be withdrawn, information minister Hasanul Haque Inu told reporters that the comments were "unwarranted" and “unprecedented" and that "no attack took place on the protests and the children".

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