Though granted bail on Monday, Kalam is still facing up to three years in prison
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for the withdrawal of all charges against well-known photographer of Rohingya origin Abul Kalam.
Though granted bail on Monday, he is still facing up to three years in prison following his arrest in Cox’s Bazar last week while covering the relocation of Rohingyas, said the Paris-based organization on Tuesday night in a press statement.
Police held Abul Kalam after arresting him at Kutupalong camp, 30 km south of Cox’s Bazar town, on 28 December as he was photographing buses leaving with Rohingyas from this overcrowded refugee camp – the world’s biggest – to take them to Bhashan Char.
Kalam was taken to a police barracks in Cox’s Bazar, where he was tortured and held for more than 60 hours, although Bangladeshi law limits police custody to a maximum of 24 hours, a local source told RSF.
He was brought before a judge on December 31 and was accused of assaulting public servants and obstructing them while they were discharging their duties, charges that carry a possible three-year jail sentence.
When reached by RSF, Kutupalong camp administrator Khalilur Rahman tried to justify Kalam’s arrest by referring to an “unidentified fugitive” and suggesting that Kalam had been complicit in an alleged attack on police officers by Rohingya refugees on May 28, 2020.
According to RSF’s source in Cox’s Bazar, Kalam was arrested because the local authorities are annoyed by his coverage of their handling of the Rohingya refugee issue, in particular, the forced transfer of the refugees to Bhashan Char, which is widely criticized in part because this low-lying island is prone to flooding.
“Arresting a photographer for covering one of the world’s most disturbing humanitarian crises is absolutely unacceptable,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on the authorities in Cox’s Bazar to drop these absurd charges. His work is of public interest for all of humankind, which needs to know about the fate of the Rohingyas, who are being mistreated again, three years after being subjected to acts of genocide by Myanmar’s military.”