Stop persecuting rights leaders, Dhaka told

New York, Nov 7 (IANS) Bangladeshi authorities should immediately stop legal proceedings against two prominent activists with Odhikar, a leading Bangladeshi human rights group, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The authorities should release Nasiruddin Elan, the group's director who was denied bail and jailed in Dhaka Wednesday.

Adilur Rahman Khan, the group's secretary, is also facing charges.

The cases were brought against the activists for their reporting on human rights abuses by government security forces, and therefore violate freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said.

"The Bangladeshi authorities should be investigating the security force abuses that Odhikar reported on, not filing cases that violate rights against the messengers," Human Rights Watch said.

"The charges against Elan and Khan appear to be an effort to silence critics, particularly ahead of the Bangladesh national elections."

Elan and Khan are charged under section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT Act), Odhikar told Human Rights Watch.

The activists are accused of falsely reporting human rights abuses by security forces during mass demonstrations by the Islamist Hefazat-e-Islami movement in Dhaka in May.

The case is being heard before the cyber crimes tribunal, which was especially constituted under the ICT Act to hear this case.

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