After being imprisoned for more than three months in a Bangladesh jail, Shahidul Alam has finally been given bail.
The 63-year-old visiting professor to the University of Sunderland was arrested on August 5 following an interview with Al Jazeera. He was held under act 57, the Information and Communication Technology (TCI) act which can carry up to 14 years in prison and has been used in up to 20 cases involving journalists.
The interview discussed government issues during the then-ongoing student protests in Dhaka and Shahidul was taken from his home in the Dhanmondi by more than 30 members of Dhaka metropolitan police for “damaging the reputation of the nation”.
On Thursday a High Court in Bangladesh granted bail to Shahidul which was confirmed by his nieceSofia Karim, who lives in the UK.
She said: “My uncle has been granted bail. Thanks all of you who spoke out and worked so hard to support us. You, his great big family, helped us achieve this.”
Alam’s arrest sparked protests all over the world and a myriad of international voices including 12 Nobel Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hollywood actress, and activist Sharon Stone, Amartya Sen, and several British MPs, including Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott.
Last month, more than 80 staff and students, along with campaigners and peace activists, unveiled photographs taken by Shahidul at the University’s Priestman Gallery.
Arabella Plouviez, Professor of Photography and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland, who is close friends of the photographer said: “We are really hopeful that this means that Shahidul will be released immediately. It has been a terrible time for him but the level of support internationally has been fantastic.
“Here at Sunderland, our students have been very involved in supporting the call for Shahidul’s release and we all hope that the granting of bail will see him ultimately freed.”
Shahidul’s photographs are well-known for focusing on exposing abuses of power and include images of the 1971 genocide of the Bangladeshi war of liberation. He also founded the picture agencies Drik and Majority World, and the photography school Pathshala South Asian Media Institute.
This is still an on-going campaign and the hashtag to follow on social media is #freeshahidulalam