Shafik Rehman

Image of Shafik Rehman in a wheelchair

Shafik is an elderly British journalist who was swept up in a crackdown on free speech in Bangladesh. He spent weeks in solitary confinement, without a bed, before being rushed to hospital with poor health. He was subsequently returned to a prison cell at Dhaka Central Jail. To date, Shafik has not been charged with any crime, but his arrest appears to have been politically-motivated and Reprieve is concerned that he could face a death sentence if charged.

On 30 August 2016, Shafik’s release on bail was ordered by the Supreme Court, but he remains in custody. The case remains under investigation and Shafik remains at risk of the death penalty.

“This is a small and long-overdue step in the right direction. Shafik, who is increasingly frail, has already been through a shameful four-month ordeal of detention without charge. His release on bail today suggests that the long-delayed police ‘evidence’ against him isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The Bangladeshi authorities must now drop their flawed investigation against this elderly journalist, and end the crackdown on press freedoms that led to his arrest in the first place.”
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team 

Shafik is a prominent journalist and magazine editor who has worked for the BBC. He was formerly a speechwriter for the opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Shafik was arrested on 16 April 2016 by plain clothed police officers who entered his home without a warrant posing as a camera crew.

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Shafik has spent a lifetime advocating for freedom in Bangladesh, rallying international support during the 1971 war of liberation, and editing a paper that was banned by the country’s military ruler in the 1980s and censored again in 2008. He is also widely credited with introducing Valentine’s Day in Bangladesh.

Shafik is the third pro-opposition editor to be detained since 2013 and his arrest appears to be politically-motivated. It comes amid criticism of the Bangladeshi government following a series of recent attacks and arrests involving journalists, bloggers and opposition activists. In its 2015 human rights report on Bangladesh, the UK Foreign Office called for “an effective justice system, and a vibrant civil society and free media, able to challenge and hold authority to account” in Bangladesh.

A former U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh and Pakistan, William B. Milam, has said that Bangladesh’s government “has silenced critics by resorting to enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings”, and that journalists who, like Shafik, “dare cover any of this are being charged with sedition and treason.”

Reprieve is assisting Shafik’s family in London.

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