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IFJ calls for due process in trial of journalist Jahangir Alam Akash

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Expresses Concerns about Trial of Bangladeshi Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed grave concern at the seeming denial of due process in the trial against Bangladesh journalist Jahangir Alam Akash, in two cases of alleged extortion.

Local sources have informed the IFJ that on October 21, when Akash appeared before a magistrate in Rajshahi division of Bangladesh, the prosecution supposedly guided witnesses in recalling the purported evidence against him.

The IFJ has also learnt that Akash's request for a deferment of the hearings because his senior defence counsel was unavailable, was not entertained by the court.

Akash, a reporter with the daily Sangbad and CSB Television, was arrested on October 23, 2007 at his home in Rajshahi, four hours after a case of extortion was filed against him. He was held in custody by the fifth unit of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB V) and the local police for four weeks, during which time he was allegedly tortured.

Since his release on bail, he has reportedly continued to face harassment by senior police officials.

The IFJ has learnt from local media organisations that almost all the charges against Akash have been brought by individuals who have been the subject of his reports about corruption. Akash has also, the IFJ is reliably informed, reported on extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses by RAB V.

"There is a long-standing concern that Akash is being deliberately targeted for conscientious and public-spirited reporting in defense of basic human rights," said IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"Allegations of mistreatment and torture indicate a possible abuse of power by senior officials. The very credible allegations that Akash has made about abuses of legal process during his arrest and his subsequent mistreatment in custody require serious, transparent and accountable investigation."

The IFJ calls on Bangladesh authorities to ensure procedural justice for Akash.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

Updates the Akash case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/89104

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