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Bangladesh: Editor Accused of Conspiring to Kill PM’s Son Granted Bail

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2016-08-31
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Editor Shafik Rehman flashes the victory sign following his arrest in Dhaka, April 16, 2016.
Editor Shafik Rehman flashes the victory sign following his arrest in Dhaka, April 16, 2016.
Focus Bangla

A Bangladeshi editor expects to remain in jail for a few more days even after Bangladesh’s Supreme Court granted him a three-month bail on Wednesday, his lawyer said.

Shafik Rehman has been jailed for more than four months for his alleged role in a conspiracy to abduct and kill the prime minister’s son with the help of a former agent from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Rehman is the editor of Mouchake Dhil magazine, a publication aligned with Bangladesh’s opposition, and the former editor of the once popular Jai Jai Din newspaper.

“The court has told us to submit his passport as a precondition to the bail. He is likely to be released as soon as the papers reach the central jail in a day or two,” A.J. Mohammad Ali, a former attorney general and Rehman’s lawyer, told BenarNews on Wednesday.

But, according to the Daily Star newspaper, a charge sheet has yet to be filed against Rehman. The court’s appellate division granted him bail for three months or until the charge sheet is submitted, the paper reported.

“His bail will expire if police submit the charge sheet before the three months [expire],” the Daily Star said.

American connection

Rehman was arrested on April 16 on suspicion of conspiring with a Bangladeshi expatriate, Rizve Ahmed, who was jailed in the United States last year for bribing an FBI agent, Robert Lustyik, and another man, Johannes Thaler, according to court documents.

Between September 2011 and March 2012, Ahmed, the son of a leader of the U.S. chapter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), bribed Lustyik and Thaler, according to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ).

The bribery was “in exchange for Lustyik’s agreement to provide confidential documents and information pertaining to a prominent citizen of Bangladesh whom Ahmed perceived to be a political rival, and whom Ahmed sought to locate and harm,” the statement said.

The other three men pleaded guilty and received jail terms, the DOJ said.

Based on the U.S. charges, Bangladesh police filed charges against Rehman who secretly received information about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s only son, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, according to the police report.

Rehman was involved in the conspiracy to abduct and harm Joy, who lives in the U.S. and often visits Bangladesh, Bangladeshi Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told reporters.

Joy is the likely successor to his mother, who heads the ruling Awami League party.

Rehman, a British national, is an adviser to BNP chairwoman Khaleda Zia.

Rehman’s wife, Taleya, told reporters that her husband was innocent and that he had received the information about Joy for a story he was writing.

Journalists charged

The case of Shafiq Rehman, 81, is one of recent examples of journalists in Bangladesh who have found themselves going before a court to face charges relating to Hasina and her family.

In February, Hasina called for trials against the editors of two leading newspapers for publishing unsubstantiated corruption stories against her and other politicians nine years ago. Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam and Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman were accused of criminal defamation by allegedly trying to brand Hasina as corrupt through the publication of false stories during the rule of a military-backed government in 2007-2008.

Two months later, Bangladeshi police upgraded a defamation charge against an editor of a local newspaper for “tarnishing the image” of a minister who is the father-in-law of Hasina’s daughter.  Police formally re-filed a criminal defamation charged against Probir Sikder, editor of the daily Bangla 71. In August 2015, he was arrested on a lesser defamation charge for a Facebook post and newspaper story, and was later released on bail.

More recently, three journalists were arrested after their news website reported about the rumored death of Joy even though the reporting debunked a rumor published by another site.

The three banglamail24 journalists arrested on Aug. 7 are executive editor Maksudul Alam, editor Shahdat Ullah Khan and Pranta Palash, a reporter. Their arrests came a few days after Bangladeshi telecommunication regulators blocked online access to 35 websites – including news sites aligned with the opposition – for allegedly making “objectionable comments” about the government.

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