Bangladesh's high court Tuesday ordered authorities to send an arrested award-winning photographer to hospital for treatment, a lawyer said, after the veteran journalist and rights activist accused police of beating him up in custody.
Shahidul Alam, 63, a renowned Bangladeshi photographer, was arrested at his Dhaka residence by plainclothes policemen on Sunday after he went live with Al Jazeera speaking about the recent student protests rocking the country.
A lower court on Monday remanded him into custody for seven days after police pressed preliminary charges against him under the country's controversial internet law.
He was accused of making ‘false’ and ‘provocative’ comments during the nine days of unprecedented protests by teenagers and students over road safety that paralysed Dhaka until last weekend.
As he was brought to a magistrate's court for a remand hearing on Monday, Alam told reporters that he was beaten by his interrogators and that they made him wear his bloodstained tunic.
But in a rare move, the high court on Tuesday suspended the remand and instead ordered him shifted to a state-run hospital in Dhaka after his wife filed a petition, his lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told AFP.
‘The court also ordered the authorities to form a medical board to examine Alam's health conditions and submit a report by Thursday,’ Barua said.
Police would not be allowed to question Alam during his treatment but could only guard him at the hospital as he was ‘still under custody’, he added.
Alam's arrest capped a turbulent week in Bangladesh as tens of thousands of students in Dhaka and beyond protested demanding justice and safe roads after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus.
Over the weekend and on Monday, more than 150 people were injured, doctors said, as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and allegedly pro-government mobs attacked demonstrators, journalists and even the US ambassador's car.
Alam, the founder of Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, a photography school in Dhaka that spawned hundreds of photographers, shot images of the demonstrations and discussed the protests on Facebook Live.
New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded his release, denouncing Bangladeshi authorities for targeting activists and journalists instead of prosecuting those responsible for unlawfully attacking student protesters.
The protest seemed to have fizzled out on Tuesday, with students telling AFP that they feared further government repression if the demonstrations continued.
The Delhi-based Foreign Correspondents' Club of South Asia also demanded the ‘immediate release’ of Alam and condemned his arrest and ‘ill treatment’.
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