Following is the English translation of the statement made by academics, writers, women’s rights, human rights and cultural activists, including freedom fighters, on December 18, 2014 regarding the conviction and sentencing of British journalist David Bergman by the International Crimes Tribunal-2, in Dhaka. The statement was published in Prothom Alo, the largest Bangla daily, the next day. One of the statement makers, Khushi Kabir, withdrew her name from the statement the following day.
On January 14, 2015, the Tribunal served notice on the 49 statement makers asking them to explain their statement: “Prima facie it appears that the core content of the ‘statement’ questions ‘transparency and openness’ of the judicial proceedings before the tribunal and also justification of the order sentencing a journalist [Bergman] for the act of scandalising the tribunal constituting the offence of contempt.”
Over the next two months, 26 statement makers tendered in writing their “unconditional apology” before the Tribunal. These were accepted as they “upgraded the majesty of the Tribunal” (Order No 11, dated 18.03.2015), and the 26 were exonerated from further proceedings.
The remaining 23, who had expressed their “regret” for any inadvertent impression the Tribunal may have received about it’s “authority and institutional dignity” having been belittled, have failed to satisfy the Tribunal as their explanation lacks “true remorse and repentance.” And, in the eyes of the Tribunal, they have, on the contrary, sought to “defend” their statement by citing the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh.
The Tribunal has now decided (Order No. 12, dated 1.04.2015) to initiate contempt proceedings against Masud Khan (consultant), Afsan Chowdhury (liberation war researcher, university teacher), Ziaur Rahman (lawyer), Hana Shams Ahmed (writer, rights activist), professor Anu Muhammad (university teacher), Anusheh Anadil (singer, rights activist), Muktasree Chakma Sathi (rights activist), Lubna Marium (cultural activist, freedom fighter), Farida Akhter (women’s rights activist), Shireen Huq (women’s rights activist), Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury (public health activist, freedom fighter), Ali Ahmed Ziauddin (freedom fighter), Rahnuma Ahmed (writer), Dr. Shahidul Alam (photographer), Dr. C. R. Abrar (university teacher), Dr. Bina D’ Costa (peace and conflict analyst), Mahmud Rahman (writer), Dr. Zarina Nahar Kabir (university teacher), Leesa Gazi (cultural activist), Shabnam Nadiya (writer), Nasrin Siraj Annie (anthropologist and film-maker, Tibra Ali (physicist), and Dr. Delwar Hussain (anthropologist).
If found guilty they face a fine or imprisonment of up to 1 year.
Continue reading “Protecting Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh”