Bangladeshi lawyer files sedition case over Al Jazeera report

Reporters and Al Jazeera’s acting director general accused in a case over the report that revealed high-level corruption among Bangladesh’s governing elite.

A government-linked Bangladeshi lawyer has filed a sedition case over an Al Jazeera investigative report that revealed how a criminal gang is colluding with Bangladesh’s security forces, and has links to the country’s prime minister.

The case, which was filed at a court in Dhaka on Wednesday, argues that Al Jazeera’s report – “All the Prime Minister’s Men” – was “fictitious and flawed”, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

The lawyer behind the case, Moshiur Malek, said Al Jazeera’s reporting “tarnished the image of Bangladesh’s government and the state at home and abroad, which amounts to sedition”, Bangladeshi media reported.

The accused in the lawsuit are Al Jazeera Media Network’s acting Director General Mostefa Souag, British journalist David Bergman, Swedish-Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil, and Hungary-based entrepreneur Zulkarnain Saer Khan.

Malek, founder and president of the government-linked Bangabandhu Foundation, filed the case with the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Ashek Imam, according to the Bangladeshi media.

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In his complaint, the lawyer argued that the court should issue arrest warrants against the four accused through Interpol. None of the accused is currently residing in Bangladesh.

The court recorded the statement of the complainant but did not pass any order, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

Later on Wednesday, the county’s High Court ordered the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to remove all  content of Al Jazeera’s report “All the Prime Minister’s Men” from social media and other online platforms.

The court reportedly passed the order after disposing of a writ petition that sought a ban on the broadcast of the Al Jazeera investigation.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that BTRC Chairman Shyam Sunder Sikder had earlier approached YouTube to remove the Al Jazeera investigation from the video platform, a request that was rejected as the content did not violate YouTube’s community guidelines, the BTRC chairman said.

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“Now, it will be easier for us to approach YouTube again after the High Court directive,” The Daily Star cited Sikder as saying.

The Al Jazeera investigation, which aired on February 1, exposed how a former street mafia claimed to have captured the Bangladeshi state.

In the report, Haris Ahmed, brother of Bangladesh’s army chief General Aziz Ahmed, boasted that he can use police and paramilitary units to abduct rivals and earn millions in bribes.

Documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit also showed that the head of the army has helped a convicted killer evade justice, and how the country’s military intelligence service has secretly bought spyware from Israel – a country that Bangladesh does not recognise.

After the release of the investigation, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement describing the findings as a “smear campaign” that was orchestrated by opponents of the government based abroad, and hinted at taking legal steps against Al Jazeera.

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It dismissed statements made by the brother of Bangladesh’s army chief as baseless and said Haris Ahmed had no links to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina or any other state institution.

On Tuesday, General Aziz told reporters in Dhaka that the allegations were false, concocted and part of a conspiracy by vested groups, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

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