Unidentified men approached journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol’s motorbike and appear to tamper with it, the day he was last seen before what is feared to be an enforced disappearance, reveals a video released by Amnesty International today based on CCTV footage obtained by the human rights organization.
“The suspicious activities of unidentified men captured in the footage are compelling evidence that shows that he was being followed only a day after the police opened an investigation against him. Since then, he has not been seen and his fate and whereabouts remain unknown,” said Saad Hammadi, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.
Shafiqul Islam Kajol, the editor of Bangla daily Dainik Pokkhokal, arrived on his motorbike at his newspaper office on Meher Tower at Hatirpool, Dhaka at 4:14 PM on 10 March 2020. Several unidentified men can be seen suspiciously moving around his motorbike and keeping an eye on it for nearly three hours before he left the premise.
In six minutes between 5:59 PM and 6:05 PM, three men approached his motorbike separately and appear to tamper with it. The journalist is then seen getting out of his office with another person at 6:19 PM and walking past his motorbike. He then comes back and can be seen leaving the place on his motorbike alone at 6:51 PM. That is the last time anyone has seen or heard from him.
The police registered a complaint from the family on 11 March regarding his disappearance, but they refused to take his case for investigation during the crucial first days, and have denied having him under custody. It was only after a High Court order was conveyed to the police on 18 March that they carried out the first actions.
One day before his disappearance, the police registered a case under the draconian Digital Security Act against journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol and 31 others. They were accused of publishing “false, offensive and defamatory” information on Facebook.
Last year, Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar documented at least 34 incidents of alleged enforced disappearances. Eight of them were later found dead, 17 were shown arrested while the fate and whereabouts of the other nine remain unknown.
“We urge the authorities to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of the journalist and release him if he is under state custody without any further delay,” said Saad Hammadi.