Family fear frail British journalist will die in Bangladesh jail

August 17, 2016

The family of an 81-year-old British journalist fear he could die in a Bangladeshi prison from ill health within months if he is not released. Shafik Rehman, who used to work for the BBC, has now spent four months detained without charge.

Dhaka detectives, posing as a TV crew, arrested him at home on 16th April without a warrant. International human rights organisation Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Rehman, is concerned that if charged he may face trial for crimes which could carry the death penalty. A Supreme Court hearing later this month will consider Mr Rehman’s case.

Mr Rehman, who has been repeatedly denied bail, is in poor health. He spent the first weeks of detention in solitary confinement, without a bed. His health deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital. His 82-year-old wife has also suffered ill health as a result of the couple’s ordeal.

His son Shumit, who lives in London, told the Independent that “Quite honestly, I’m not sure if either of them will see the year out.” After Mr Rehman’s first month of questioning, he required a wheelchair. Now he can only walk while holding onto someone. Shumit warned that his father may die in prison if he was not released soon.

Human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting him, has written to UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, asking him to urgently support Mr Rehman’s application for bail.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“Shafik Rehman has been put through a litany of injustices as ‘punishment’ for his journalism and his criticism of the government. First arrested by plainclothes officers posing as a TV crew, he’s since been held in such terrible conditions that he needs hospital treatment. Now the authorities seem intent on dragging out his detention for as long as possible, while they threaten him with charges that carry a potential death sentence. Given that Shafik is 81 and in poor health, this ongoing ordeal puts him in grave danger. The UK government must urgently demand that Bangladesh release this British grandfather on bail – before it’s too late.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.