An 81-year-old well-known pro-opposition magazine editor in Bangladesh was on Saturday arrested for sedition and his alleged involvement in an abduction plot of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son in the US last year, police said.
Shafik Rehman, the editor of popular Bengali monthly magazine Mouchake Dhil and also a British citizen, had worked as a speech-writer for former prime minister Khaleda Zia and his arrest is the latest in a series of cases that have sparked concern over freedom of speech.
Rehman was approached by three men in plain clothes who identified themselves as reporters and asked him to accompany them, said his wife Taleya Rehman, a former BBC journalist.
Police later said Rehman, who has also worked with the BBC, was arrested in connection with a sedition case lodged with the Paltan police station in Dhaka last year.
“He (Rehman) has been brought to our Detective Branch…he has been arrested in connection with a case pending with the (Dhaka’s) Paltan police station,” a police official said.
The official added that Rehman was arrested as he was found involved in a plot to abduct Prime Minister Hasina’s son and Information and Communications Technology advisor Sajib Wajed Joy last year from the US.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), meanwhile, condemned the arrest and demanded Rehman’s immediate release.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the government arrested him to divert peoples’ attention from its numerous failures.
“The incident proves that there is no democracy in the country and nobody has the right to express his free opinion,” Alamgir said.
He is the third pro-opposition journalist to have been arrested by the government. Two other journalists associated with Bangladesh’s leading Bengali and English newspapers have also been booked for defamation and sedition.
Rehman has formerly served as a speech-writer for two-time former prime minister and opposition leader Zia who is also the chief of BNP.
He shot to fame for his criticism of the government during General H M Ershad’s dictatorship through in his weekly column after becoming editor of Jaijaidin weekly in the 1980s. Rehman had to leave Bangladesh facing the wrath of Ershad but returned after he was dethroned.