Shahidul Alam, the imprisoned Bangladeshi photojournalist and activist, has finally been released from jail over a hundred days since his arrest over a media interview. Dozens of his friends, relatives and disciples greeted him at Dhaka Central Jail.
In a quick reaction to the media after his release, a jubilant Shahidul said, “Freedom is what everyone wants. It’s only normal that the free people of free Bangladesh remain free. However, if free citizens cannot express their thoughts or speak freely, they are not free.”
His lawyer Sara Hossain added, “I think his release means the judicial system hasn’t collapsed yet.”
Shahidul’s freedom, however, was delayed for hours due to 'discrepancies' between the addresses mentioned in the release order and the jail document, according to Iqbal Kabir Chowdhury, a senior jail superintendent at Dhaka Central Jail. However, Jyotirmoy Barua, a member of Shahidul's legal team, said, “Prolonging one’s release over such trivial issues is harassment.”
On Monday, despite Shahidul Alam’s lawyers having presented the high court’s order granting him bail, a Dhaka magistrate had refused to issue the release order, citing the government’s appeal petition against the high court verdict.
However, the petition was not moved further by the attorney-general’s office on Tuesday, paving the way for his release. Hossain, his lawyer, had expected him to be released by Sunday.
The high court granted him bail last Thursday after several benches of the court declined to decide whether to grant him bail.
Shahidul was picked up by the police on 5 August, hours after his scathing interview with Al Jazeera, in which he harshly criticised the government’s dealing of student protests for safer roads in Dhaka.
He was later charged under the Information and Technology Act, a much-criticised internet law. He was accused of "provoking people and spreading false information and propaganda against the government".
His arrest triggered worldwide outrage, with rights groups and prominent personalities including Nobel laureates urging the government to drop the charges against him.
The author is a Dhaka-based journalist
Updated Date: Nov 20, 2018 23:24 PM