Court to deliver decision on journalist Rozina Islam’s bail plea Sunday

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The senior correspondent of daily Prothom Alo is accused in a case filed by Health Ministry under the Official Secrets Act

A Dhaka court has set Sunday to give decision on the bail plea filed by Prothom Alo Senior Reporter Rozina Islam in a case lodged by the Health Ministry under the Official Secrets Act.

After hearing and evaluating all relevant documents, Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Md Baki Billah passed the order virtually on Thursday afternoon.

The court also allowed the prosecution to present other important information before it on Sunday.

Islam was not produced before the court during the hearing which started at 12:50pm and ended at 2pm.

The 42-year-old, known for her investigative journalism, was detained at the Secretariat for over five hours before being handed over to police on May 17. She allegedly clicked photos of documents related to government negotiations with pharma firms to buy Covid-19 vaccines, according to case documents.

Defence lawyer Ehsanul Haque Samaji speaks to the media on the premises of Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court on Thursday after the bail hearing of a case filed against Prothom Alo Senior Reporter Rozina Islam | Focus Bangla

An FIR (first investigation report) was filed against Islam under the Official Secrets Act and sections 379 and 411 of The Penal Code on a complaint filed by the Health Services Division at Shahbagh police station.

Later, a Dhaka court, on May 18, sent Islam to jail after rejecting the police’s demand for her five-day remand. Islam was taken to Kashimpur Central Women’s Jail on that day only.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has formed a three-member probe committee to look into the allegations of the journalist’s detention at the Secretariat and also her subsequent handover to the police.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Hemayet Uddin Khan Hiron speaks to the media on the premises of Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court on Thursday after the bail hearing of a case filed against Prothom Alo Senior Reporter Rozina Islam | Focus Bangla

Meanwhile, the case filed against Islam was transferred to the Detective Branch of police on Wednesday.

Protest over Islam’s arrest

Journalists formed a human chain on Wednesday and Thursday in front of the Jatiya Press Club, demanding the “unconditional” release of Islam and punishment of those involved in “harassing” her at the Secretariat.

They also demanded withdrawal of the false cases filed against the woman scribe.

UN concern over Islam’s arrest

The United Nations has said that Islam’s arrest is obviously “something concerning”, noting that journalists need to be able to do their work free of any sort of harassment or physical threat anywhere around the world.

“Look, I’ve seen…we’ve seen the press reports on the journalist who was arrested in Bangladesh. It’s, obviously, something that we’re looking at. It’s something that’s concerning,” said Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, at a regular briefing on May 18.

Amnesty statement over arrest

Islam’s arrest and the failure of the Bangladesh authorities to provide concrete evidence pointing to a recognizable criminal offence raise concerns that she is being targeted for her critical reporting, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In the absence of such evidence, the authorities must release Islam immediately and she should not be punished for fulfilling her professional duties as a journalist, the human rights organization also said.

TIB condemns arrest 

Transparency International Bangladesh has also strongly condemned the detention and harassment of the investigative journalist at the Ministry of Health while performing her professional duties.

In a statement issued on May 18, TIB has demanded immediate withdrawal of charges and unconditional release of Islam. It has also urged the government to show prudence by ensuring exemplary punishment to the culprits through proper investigation into the incident.

Source: Dhaka Tribune



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