Fired Bangladeshi prosecutor returns home after seeking shelter at American embassy

Reyad Hossain
Fired Bangladeshi prosecutor returns home after seeking shelter at American embassy Imran Ahmad Bhuiyan, who had been fired from his post as a Bangladesh deputy attorney general, is seen with his family at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Sept. 8, 2023.
Courtesy of The Daily Star

A deputy attorney general who was fired after speaking out against Bangladesh’s prosecution of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus returned home on Friday evening after he and his family spent several hours at the U.S. Embassy here because they felt unsafe.

While inside the well-guarded embassy compound, Imran Ahmed Bhuiyan sent out a text to express concerns for his family’s safety, according to a report by The Daily Star newspaper.

“I am at the American embassy, along with my whole family, for shelter. There are police personnel outside. I was sacked today. … Over the last four to five days, I was being threatened on my Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp,” he texted. 

“This government repays love with imprisonment. I don’t have a U.S. visa; I somehow managed to leave home with just three bags and my three daughters, and am sitting here. Pray for us.”

During an unauthorized and impromptu press conference earlier this week, he aired his concerns about a slew of criminal and civil cases that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government had brought against Yunus, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Bhuiyan called it “a judicial harassment.”

In a separate text on Friday to The Business Standard, another Bangladeshi daily, he wrote, “As the embassy is closed on Friday, we are currently waiting outside at the reception area.” 

Bhuiyan and his family left the embassy and returned home under police protection after he said he had received assurances that he would not be arrested. 

Earlier in the day, a spokesman at the embassy said he had “no information to offer” about Bhuiyan and his family. In Washington, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department issued a similar message to BenarNews.

This car carried recently fired Bangladesh Deputy Attorney General Imran Ahmad Bhuiyan and his family from the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Sept. 8, 2023. [BenarNews]

As news spread about the family’s plight, Dhaka journalists gathered outside the embassy. At 6:38 p.m., Bhuiyan and his family were seen getting into a car to leave the embassy.

“Due to the law minister’s remark, I feared that the government might arrest me and so we went to the U.S. embassy to seek shelter,” he told reporters. “The embassy has been informed by the government that there is no danger of my arrest. Embassy officials assured me. Later, the police escorted me home.”

Bhuiyan told The Daily Star that he and his family returned home around 9 p.m. 

A Dhaka police official confirmed the information.

“He might have gone to the embassy for any reason, but he returned home along with his family,” Md. Shahidullah, deputy commissioner of Gulshan Division of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.

‘He broke that discipline’

On Thursday, a notice signed by Runa Nahid Akhtar, an official at the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, said Bhuiyan’s appointment was canceled “in the public interest” and he had been dismissed.

Law Minister Anisul Huq said Bhuiyan had refused to leave his post.

“I have been waiting for the last three days, he has not resigned. That is why he has been dismissed,” Huq told reporters at the Akhaura railway station in Brahmanbaria on Friday.

“It is a rule that if you are in government service, you have to give any speech with the permission of the head of the institution. He broke that discipline and lied about the government from office.”

Celebrated laureate

During his unauthorized press conference on Monday, in his remarks about “a judicial harassment,” Bhuiyan was echoing an open letter to the prime minister from more than 170 Nobel laureates and global leaders one week earlier. 

Yunus, who is celebrated worldwide for his work on poverty alleviation, has come under increasing pressure from Hasina’s government since she returned to power in 2009, beginning with his forced resignation from Grameen Bank, a microfinancing trailblazer that he started.

In recent years, the government ordered investigations against him and several entities that he is associated with, including the filing of an additional 18 charges of alleged violations of the country’s labor law last month.

A day after Bhuiyan spoke out, Huq, the law minister, said he had directed officials to initiate the process of terminating him.

“[Bhuiyan] is assigned with the attorney general’s office. If he wanted to speak to the press, he should either have resigned or obtained permission from the attorney general. But he did neither,” Huq said at the time.

Bhuiyan’s firing, coupled with his visit to the U.S. Embassy, is a reminder of the lack of free speech in Bangladesh, according to Shahdeen Malik, a noted lawyer and honorary director of the Bangladesh Institute for Law and International Affairs. 

“Taking refuge in the embassy proves there is no fear when you are with the government, and if you are not with them, you plunge into the fear factor,” he told BenarNews.

“By being sacked for an opinion, it is a reminder of the weak state of freedom of speech in the country.”


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