Bangladeshi student in US: Mother arrested back home for my political beliefs

Ahammad Foyez
Bangladeshi student in US: Mother arrested back home for my political beliefs Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee (center) emerges from the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka, Aug. 18, 2011.
[Munir uz Zaman/AFP]

Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET on 2023-08-23

A Bangladeshi student in the U.S. alleged that his mother was arrested back home in retaliation for his recent, viral Facebook post criticizing the war crimes trial of an influential Islamic preacher who died last week.

Police on Tuesday, however, said they had picked up Anisha Siddika, the mother of student Tanzilur Rahman, for allegedly attending a secret meeting where participants were plotting an escape plan for jailed leaders of the faith-based Jamaat-e-Islami party.

The Metropolitan Magistrate Court in southwestern Khulna district, where 60-year-old Siddika was arrested on Sunday, turned down bail for her on Tuesday, her lawyer told BenarNews.

Bangladesh police chief Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun denied that Siddika had been arrested because of her son’s social media post. The court was shown that she was arrested under the stringent Special Powers Act 1974.

“She was arrested for attending a meeting of the Jamaat’s sabotage plan. I want to make this clear. A conspiracy to sabotage and disrupt law and order was going on at the house of a Jamaat Nayeb-e-Amir [vice-president] in the Khulna unit … After getting that information, we went there and conducted the drive,” he said.

“After the arrest, we came to know that the woman’s expatriate son had posted a post on Facebook … The raid was carried out based on intelligence information; the raid had no other purpose.”

Rahman, a PhD engineering student at Michigan State University, said his mother was not a member of any political party, although it was true his family members supported the preacher in question, Delwar Hossain Sayedee.

“Yes, all members of our family support the politics of the Jamaat and we all are fans of Sayedee. Police say my uncle is the Nayeb-e-Amir of the local unit of the Jamaat, and my mother was arrested from his house, but my uncle is not a Jamaat leader,” he told BenarNews.

“There is no doubt, my mother was arrested because of my Facebook post about my political beliefs.”

Via Facebook Rahman alleged that the government may have forced witnesses into giving false testimonies against the preacher Sayedee, who died in a prison hospital on Aug. 14 after suffering a heart attack. He was 83.

Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee are gathered to offer prayers during his funeral in Pirojpur district in southwestern Bangladesh, Aug. 15, 2023. [Mustasinur Rahman Alvi/AFP]

Sayedee had been convicted and sentenced to death in 2013 for crimes against humanity, including rape and murder, during Bangladesh’s war for independence in 1971. A court later commuted his sentence to life in prison.

Sayedee was a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a party which worked against Bangladesh during the country’s war of independence from what was then known as West Pakistan. He was an influential preacher in the 1980s and his conviction caused violent protests that left nearly 100 people dead.

On the day he died, news agencies reported that thousands of his angry supporters demonstrated as violent anti-government protests broke out across Bangladesh. Some 50,000 people attended his funeral on Aug. 15.

Many on social media criticized Siddika’s arrest.

Nur Khan Liton, a human rights activist, said the arrest was similar to previous cases of relatives of Bangladeshi expatriates being detained and harassed at home to create fear for voicing a dissenting opinion.

“Though police now say a different thing to divert people’s minds, people are very much aware of the character of the authorities,” he told BenarNews.

“Police committed a serious offense and violated human rights through this incident.”

This story has been updated to correct a quote from Tanzilur Rahman.


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