ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-005-2017
07 July 2017
[RE: BANGLADESH/INDIA:Bangladeshi and Indian authorities must work together to locate missing Bangladeshi poet
, Farhad Mazhar and ensure his safety]
BANGLADESH: Missing poet Farhad Mazhar has been found – AHRC calls for an independent inquiry into the incident
ISSUES: Dissent, Threat to life, Disappearance, Human rights defender
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the case of the missing poet and activist Farhad Mazhar, who has been found. His disappearance and subsequent rescue has thrown up more questions than answers as our update will show. The AHRC had earlier issued an Urgent Appeal urging the relevant authorities to locate the missing poet.
At 11:30 PM on 3 July the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had claimed that they have rescued Farhad Mazhar from a Dhaka bound air-conditioned bus of Hanif Enterprise at a place called Noapara. It was later revealed, through Mazhar’s statement to the magistrate in Dhaka, that he was released in Khulna city at around 7:00 pm. The perpetrators gave a ticket of Hanif Enterprise bus company to go straight to Dhaka without talking to anyone about the incident. The bus left Shibbari Bus Terminal for Dhaka at 9:15 pm carrying only three passengers until Farhad Mazhar was declared 'rescued' later in the night. The bus suddenly stopped near Bengal Jute Mills at Noapara without any explanation to the passengers and the bus staff got off the board. After about 40 minutes, the members of the law-enforcement agencies arrived at the scene and looked for Farhad Mazhar, who was in one of the back seats in the bus.
The RAB and Police officers had an argument between them on the issue of taking Farhad Mazhar in custody. Later, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Bangladesh Police in the Khulna Range, Mr. Didar Ahammed, intervened and took Farhad Mazhar into police custody.
At 01:45 pm the next day, the Detective Branch (DB) of Police in Dhaka hosted a Press Briefing about the issue of Farhad Mazhar's abduction. The Joint Commissioner of the DB of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Mr. Abdul Baten, told the media that Farhad Mazhar was ‘abducted’ by some people while he went out his flat to buy medicine. The police cited Farhad Mazhar to inform the media that the abduction was for ransom. The police said that they would produce the victim before a Magistrate for recording his statement on which further investigation would be conducted. Responding to a question from a journalist, in reference to the remarks of the Khulna Range DIG that 'Farhad Mazhar was travelling on his own", Joint Commissioner Abdul Baten stated that "We do not know who has said what. We are telling you what we have been told by the victim."
At 3:00 pm the DB Police brought Farhad Mazhar to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court of Dhaka for recording his statement. The Magistrate, Mr. Mohammad Ahsan Habib, recorded the Statement of Farhad Mazhar. According to AHRC sources, there was no lawyer to represent him at the time of recording his statement in the office of the Magistrate. In the open Court Mr. Sanaullah Miah, a lawyer submitted a petition seeking release of Farhad Mazhar on self bond, which the Magistrate allowed.
Bangladesh's Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the Prothom Alo, a vernacular national daily, that:
"The Government will file case to find out the truth on how poet Farhad Mazhar went missing. At the same time, the Government will investigate why he went out of his home in such early morning and who forced him to go all the way to Khulna. It is not a small matter. On Monday, not only his family but also many people including the law-enforcement agencies were concerned over the matter. If he was taken across our (national) border (to India) or someone could take him beyond the boundary, how dangerous the situation would have been, that have made us worried. Then, there would have come various explanations. However, the Government has not yet found any fault of Farhad Mazhar."
Considering the deteriorated health of Farhad Mazhar, his relatives took him to the BIRDEM Hospital at Shahbagh in Dhaka. He is still receiving treatment at the hospital. His family has informed the AHRC that he has been found to be seriously disoriented and is suffering from memory loss, possibly traumatized by the incident.
Please write letters to the authorities listed below, asking them to immediately conduct an independent inquiry into the matter of Farhad Mazhar’s disappearance and ensure that he is safe and receives adequate medical treatment.