Friday, May 11, 2007

Bangladesh journalist Tasneem Khalil arrested

CNN.com

• Men from an army intelligence unit were behind the arrest, Khalil's wife said
• The men took Khalil's passport, cell phones, documents, wife said
Human Rights Watch's Asia director expresses extreme concern
• Khalil worked on HRW report last year about alleged torture by elite forces

(CNN) -- The Bangladeshi army arrested a Bangladesh journalist at his home early Friday for unknown reasons, according to his wife.

Tasneem Khalil writes for the Dhaka-based Daily Star and also works part-time for Human Rights Watch and as a stringer for several news organizations, including CNN.

Khalil's wife Sharmin Afsana Shuchi telephoned CNN to say that the men who arrested him were from an army intelligence unit.

In a statement, she said that four men in plainclothes identified themselves as belonging to "the joint task force." They refused to tell Khalil on what charges he was being arrested and cautioned him to be quiet "if you don't want anything else to happen," she said.

The men searched the house, took Khalil's passport and cell phones, two desktop computers and "all the documents, notepads, piles of paper, CDs and everything," she said. "They took it all away."

The men allegedly took Khalil to the Sangsad Bhavan army camp outside the parliament building in Dhaka.

The Bangladeshi army has detained thousands of people since declaring a state of emergency on January 11, Human Rights Watch said. Many of them have been tortured, the group said.

"We are extremely concerned about Tasneem Khalil's safety," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "He has been a prominent voice in Bangladesh for human rights and the rule of law and has been threatened because of that."

Khalil is a noted investigative journalist who has published several controversial exposes of official corruption and abuse, particularly by security forces. Last year, he assisted Human Rights Watch in research for a 2006 report about torture and extrajudicial killings by Bangladesh elite security forces, said HRW press director Emma Daly.

According to Bangladeshi human rights groups, the army has detained tens of thousands of people since a state of emergency was declared on January 11, 2007. A number of those detained are picked up in the middle of the night, as Khalil was, and then tortured.

In Bangladesh, security forces have long been implicated in torture and extrajudicial killings. The killings have been attributed to members of the army, the police, and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism force. The Human Rights Watch report Khalil worked on, “Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force,” focused on abuses by the RAB.

Killings in custody remain a persistent problem in Bangladesh. To date, no military personnel are known to have been held criminally responsible for any of the deaths.

Khalil was called in for questioning by military intelligence last week, apparently as part of the military’s campaign to intimidate independent journalists ahead of May 10, 2007, when the army’s three-month legal mandate for ruling under a state of emergency came to an end.

CNN and HRW have been in contact with Bangladesh's Special Envoy to the United States, Farook Sobhan, and other officials in attempts to find information about Khalil. Sobhan told CNN it was the first he'd heard about Khalil's arrest and promised to make inquiries. #

Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force

POSTED: 1:10 a.m. EDT, May 11, 2007

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report

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