- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2001

DHAKA, Bangladesh The Supreme Court ordered the government to explain why steps should not be taken to protect the country's Hindu minority as the media yesterday slammed the arrest of a senior journalist who campaigned against Islamic fundamentalism.
The court gave the government one month to explain why it should not be asked "to take proper steps to protect the country's religious minorities from terrorist attacks," judicial sources said.
Judges Abdul Matin and Marziul Huq issued the order late Saturday following a petition filed by Ain-O-Salish Kendra, a legal rights group.
Kendra said that both before and after last month's polls, "the minorities came under various threats, attacks and persecution and were subjected to looting of their properties."
"Women and children were also subjected to rape," it said, citing its independent investigation and newspaper reports.
Indian officials said Bangladeshi Hindus had been pouring into India to escape attacks after the Islamist-allied government came to power.
In a related development, journalist and anti-Muslim fundamentalism campaigner Shahriar Kabir, arrested for reported anti-state activities on his return from neighboring India three days ago, was brought from the Dhaka Central Jail to appear before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kazi Meraj Hossain, who turned down his request for bail.
The court, having earlier turned down a petition to separate him from petty criminals in jail, granted police two days to quiz him.
Defense attorney Shawkat Ali Khan sought two weeks' stay on the order, saying that allowing Mr. Kabir to be grilled was unacceptable and he would appeal to the high court. The court did stay the order for two weeks.
Mr. Kabir had been filming and writing about reported attacks on Bangladesh's minority Hindu population around the Oct. 1 general elections, which brought Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Islamist-allied government to power.
As part of his investigation, he visited India to speak to Hindus who had fled Bangladesh because of the reported attacks. The government denied that Hindus had been attacked.
The Daily Star newspaper blasted the government for arresting the journalist, saying "whatever [Mr.] Kabir has said were public statements, and there is nothing which suggests anti-state activities."
"We say this because statements coming from the official word almost sound like he has been found guilty even before his trial."
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media rights watchdog, demanded Mr. Kabir's release and accused the government of imprisoning a "journalist who was only reporting the situation of hundreds of Hindus suffering religious violence in Bangladesh."


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