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.
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.
The family of an 81 year old British journalist facing a potential death sentence in Bangladesh have raised concerns that he has yet to be released, after he was bailed yesterday following nearly five months in prison without charge.
An 81 year old British journalist who is facing a potential death sentence in Bangladesh has been bailed this morning after spending over four months in detention without charge.
Britain’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has refused to declassify files about its work with Bangladeshi prison guards, as an elderly British journalist enters his fourth month of detention without charge.
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.
An elderly British journalist who could face the death penalty in Bangladesh will tomorrow have been jailed without charge for 4 months, amid worsening fears for his wellbeing.