South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), expresses deep concern at the two-year prison sentence imposed on Adilur Rahman Khan, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, Secretary General and Director of the human rights organisation Odhikar on 14 September 2023. They were convicted under section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2006, for running “[a] distorted report and doctored images” about police action on a rally of the Hefazat-e-Islam, in Motijheel, Dhaka on 5 and 6 May, 2013.
Section 57 of the ICT Act and its use has been widely criticized by Bangladeshi and international organisations since it came into force as being in contravention of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Earlier in 2022, the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Government of Bangladesh had officially denied renewal of an application by Odhikar for renewal of its registration with this regulatory authority.
SAHR calls for the immediate release of Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, to stop any hate campaigns or harassment against them, and to urgently review all cases filed under section 57 of the ICT Act 2006 to prevent miscarriages of justice. SAHR also strongly urges the government to end harassment of HRDs and civil society organisations.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights
Dr. Roshmi Goswami
Dr. P. Saravanamuttu