Charges dropped against Bangladeshi writer, foreign journalists


Dhaka : A Bangladesh court has dropped sedition charges against writer Shahriar Kabir, four foreign journalists and four others five years after they were detained for trying to probe Al Qaeda's presence in the country.

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Kabir is a widely-read writer-journalist who had been persecuted by the former Khaleda Zia government for criticizing the rise of Islamist extremism.

The Zia government denied reports by western media and think tanks that key Al Qaeda elements, after the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, fled that country and have taken shelter in Bangladesh.

Bangaldesh banned several journals, including an issue of Far Eastern Economic Review, that wrote on this subject and many journalists were also barred.

On Nov 25, 2002, police arrested two British Channel 4 television journalists on sedition charges while they were about to cross into India through the border at Benapole in Jessore district.

Customs authorities told the court that films and other documents seized from the journalists at the time of their arrest at Benapole were "intended to tarnish the image of Bangladesh."

The others who were accused in the case are British journalist Zaiba Naz Malik, Leopoldo Bruno Sorrentino of Italy and four Bangladeshis: NGO activist Pricilla Raj, freelance journalist Saleem Samad, Tofael Ahmed and advocate Rana Das Gupta.

In the backdrop of huge protests by international media watchdogs, the Bangladeshi nationals were granted bail by different courts.

On Dec 11, 2002, the government deported Zaiba Naz Malik and Leopoldo Bruno Sorrentino, following their undertaking that they would not broadcast any material collected from the country.

Bangladesh's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Thursday submitted the final probe report discharging all the accused before the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate, stating that the charges against them could not be prima facie proved, The Daily Star said Friday.