On the morning of July 20, Adilur Rahman Khan landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Adilur was in Malaysia to take part in the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network’s (ADPN) second general assembly as the general secretary of Dhaka-based human rights organisation “Odhikar.” He submitted his passport at immigration and waited to be waved through.
The immigration officer ran his passport through their database and gave him a note with two words written on it. He did not know what they meant back then, now Adilur knows they meant “suspicious.”
The immigration officer returned his passport and asked Adilur to submit the passport to another officer in the adjacent room. Adilur complied and was asked to wait.
Around 7am in the morning, a third officer bade Adilur follow him to another part of the airport. Adilur had grown wary of the situation unfolding, so he emailed an ADPN convener saying: “I am not being allowed to go out of the airport and will probably be detained.”
The response was swift, with the Malaysian colleague assuring that the Malaysian National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) was being informed at the moment.
The airport authorities took away Adilur’s luggage, laptop and phone. Then he was ushered into a large room where nearly 60 people were already waiting. He saw that nearly half of them were Bangladeshis, and the others from India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Palestine and Iran.
After spending nearly an hour confined to the holding room, Adilur was let out of the room for a minute and asked to pay $100. In exchange, he was given two biscuits, a bottle of water, a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.
Several hours passed until Adilur was again approached by an airport official. A police officer asked him if he had informed anyone of his detention. When Adilur responded with an affirmative, the police officer became outraged and shouted: “Why did you do that?”
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The seething police officer left the scene without further escalating the situation. In his wake, an airport official told Adilur that the MNHRC is looking for him. To verify his identity and well-being, the airport official took a photo of Adilur.
Adilur was again relocated, this time to a 6x10 cell where he was served lunch and tea. He remained confined and isolated until he was taken out at 6pm to meet with two MNHRC representatives. After the meeting, Adilur was put onboard a Malaysian Airlines flight to Dhaka around 7pm, but his passport was entrusted to a member of the flight crew.
The plane reached Dhaka at 10:20pm Thursday night. Adilur was escorted to the Immigration Police offices where his passport was returned to him and he stepped out of the airport.
On July 22 Saturday, Adilur recanted his ordeal at KLIA to the media at a press conference at the Odhikar office in Gulshan.
After his address to the press, Adilur asked what the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment was doing about Malaysia detaining citizens with valid visas.
“Our citizens are not being let in Malaysia but locked up in detention rooms and sent back. What is the government doing?”
This report was first published on Bangla Tribune