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Bangladesh: Rights groups call for release of Nusrat Shahrin Raka, sister of Bangladeshi journalist Kanak Sarwar

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January 27, 2022

Mr. Abu Mohammad Amin Uddin

Attorney General of Bangladesh

Attorney General’s Office of Bangladesh

People’s Republic of Bangladesh

attorneygeneraloffice.bd@gmail.com

Dear Attorney General Abu Mohammad Amin Uddin,

We, the undersigned 15 press freedom and human rights organizations, write to urge you to withdraw opposition to pre-trial bail for Nusrat Shahrin Raka, a homemaker and sister of exiled Bangladeshi journalist Kanak Sarwar, and to work cooperatively with Raka’s lawyers and the relevant courts to facilitate her immediate release from jail.

We also request that you cease the judicial harassment of Kanak Sarwar by dropping all unwarranted charges brought against him in relation to his journalistic work. Further, we call on the Bangladesh government to repeal the Digital Security Act unless it can be promptly amended in line with international human rights law and standards with regard to the fundamental right of freedom of expression.

We have reviewed credible allegations that authorities have targeted Raka in retaliation for Sarwar’s criticism of the Bangladesh government on his YouTube channel, Kanak Sarwar News. The persecution of Raka signals that authorities will use drastic means to silence critical reporting, whether in Bangladesh or abroad, amid an intensifying assault on the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

In the early hours of October 5, 2021, Rapid Action Battalion officers raided Raka’s home in Uttara and took her and her three sons, who are minors, to the battalion’s headquarters.

Raka’s three sons were released approximately 30 hours later, according to her family, who allege that officers then held and subjected Raka to extended interrogation, during which they questioned her repeatedly about Sarwar, asking why he opposed the Bangladesh government and referring to him as a “freedom fighter.”

Raka’s family further alleges that Rapid Action Battalion officers threatened to charge her with possession of methamphetamines unless she confessed to making Facebook posts critical of the government.

In a press release published on October 5, 2021, the Rapid Action Battalion accused Raka of being an “active member of an anti-state propaganda and conspiracy circle” with Sarwar and referred to him as a “traitor,” further suggesting that authorities detained Raka in retaliation for her relationship to the journalist.

On October 5, 2021, Rapid Action Battalion filed a first information report against Raka under the Digital Security Act, citing posts critical of Bangladesh government officia