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AFP
March 15, 2019

BD court suspends case against outspoken photographer

World

AFP
March 15, 2019

DHAKA: An investigation into celebrated photographer Shahidul Alam was suspended by a Bangladesh court on Thursday, after his arrest last year on controversial charges for criticising the government attracted global outrage.

Alam was arrested in a midnight raid in August and held under draconian internet laws which critics say have been wielded by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stifle dissent and harass journalists. The award-winning photographer was charged with making "false" and "provocative" statements in a televised interview, offences carrying a maximum 14 years in jail.

He was jailed for 107 days -- the photographer said he was badly beaten while in custody -- and denied bail four times before being freed in November. His lawyers said on Thursday the investigation into Alam, 63, was suspended by the High Court for three months -- a first step toward charges being dropped.

Bangladesh’s attorney general said the government would appeal the decision. "We will do that as soon as the court resumes next week," Deputy Attorney General Moklesur Rahman told AFP.

Alam’s detention sparked global outrage and became a closely watched freedom of speech case. It also shone a spotlight on the laws used to charge him, legislation that rights groups say has given authorities free rein to curb freedom of expression. That internet legislation he was charged under was replaced in October by the Digital Security Act, which critics said was even more repressive.

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