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Detained editor Mahmudur Rahman now facing sedition charge

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the charge of sedition that has been brought against Mahmudur Rahman, the chief editor of the opposition daily "Amar Desh", and calls on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government to guarantee his physical integrity, as he may have been mistreated in detention since his arrest on 2 June 2010.

"In the space of a few days, Rahman has been accused of fraud, obstructing the police, printing an outlawed group's posters and now sedition," Reporters Without Borders said. "We think he is the victim of political persecution and we fear that this case marks a tragic return to the old anti-democratic practice of harassing leading opposition figures. We call for his release."

A national daily, the now closed "Amar Desh" is close to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

A journalist who has been held in the past on a sedition charge told Reporters Without Borders: "The cells are filthy, the toilets are revolting and there is little food and water. The interrogation sessions normally take place in the evening and mistreatment is common."

The sedition charge allows the authorities to hold Rahman indefinitely until a competent court issues a verdict. The decision to bring this very serious charge was endorsed by the Awami League government's interior minister. In support of the charge, the police said Rahman met a group of officials accused of plotting in 2006 against the government.

Two other new charges have been brought against him. One is complicity in an attempt by around 100 members of the BNP's youth organisation to grab him from the police during his transfer from a court to a prison. The other is printing propaganda material for the banned Islamist movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

On 8 June, the Dhaka high court ordered five "Amar Desh" journalists to present themselves for trial on a charge of obstructing justice for resisting an attempt by around 100 people to carry out a raid on the newspaper on 2 June.

The high court is meanwhile considering a petition for the quashing of the order withdrawing the newspaper's licence.

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