Amar Desh Editor Arrested after Closure
Wednesday, 02 June 2010

Police early on Wednesday morning stormed the Amar Desh newspaper office and arrested acting editor Mahmudur Rahman on fraud charges, hours after the government closed the BNP-leaning daily.

The newspaper's deputy editor Syed Abdal Ahmed told that Mahmudur was taken away minutes before 4am after police had talked with his lawyer at his Karwan Bazaar office.

The arrest capped a 17-hour drama played out after the paper's publisher Hashmat Ali Hashu, who himself was briefly 'detained', sued Mahmudur on Tuesday night.

Police had been trying to arrest the acting editor, a BNP stalwart, but were held out by staff since shortly before midnight. The staff barricaded the main entrance to the office for several hours and shut the lift for the 10th floor office.

They staged protests and vowed that their chief would have to be arrested 'over their dead bodies' as police reinforcements were brought in. Police then sought their cooperation but were refused before forcing their into the office at 3:30am to end the standoff.

Ahmed, also the chief correspondent, had earlier told that police shut down the paper's press at Love Road in Tejgaon at 11:30pm.

Leaders of opposition BNP and its associate organisations gathered at the scene after broke the news. BNP vice chairman Abdullah Al Noman, standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan, BNP chairperson's press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan, Shimul Biswas, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal president Sultan Salahuddin Tuku were also there.

The events unfolding since morning--when Hashmat's family said he had been whisked away by intelligence men to an undisclosed place--took a new twist when the Dhaka's deputy commissioner Muhibul Haque cancelled the paper's declaration.

The commissioner signed an order to this effect at 10pm, an official of his office said, preferring anonymity.

But Mahmudur had told reporters at his office that police shut the press without showing the papers of the order cancelling the declaration.

It was not clear on what grounds the broadsheet, which hit the stands during BNP-led government's term in Sept, 2004, was closed.

The government last month knocked private TV station Channel 1 off the air citing irregularities.

Journalist Abdal told around 11:35pm, " The press started printing Wednesday's paper an hour before but police did not allow distribution to news agent's.

"They said printing will stop."

Tejgaon Industrial Area police chief Omar Faruk earlier told that a complaint had been lodged against Mahmudur, who earlier in the day alleged that the government was planning to shut down the newspaper.

Faruk said the case alleged financial losses.

The former energy adviser to ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia rushed a news conference at the pro-BNP daily's office and said he had talked with Hashmat after he had returned from his detention at National Security Intelligence office, who had told him that he was 'frightened'.

Mahmudur said the NSI men took Hasmat and forced him to sign two papers. "He was made to sit at their office until 2pm while the investigators pressed him to sign two papers."

"One of the papers was addressed to Dhaka's deputy commissioner and the other to Tejgaon police chief. The papers state that Hashmat Ali is not the publisher of Amar Desh. Legal steps can be taken as his name is being printed as the publisher."

"He was forced to sit until he signed the papers. Later Hashmat Ali signed the papers and was released after a five-hour detention," said Mahmudur.

A former executive chairman of the Board of Investment, Mahmudur said the press meet was organised to protest the current government's 'fascist' behaviour and conspiracy against the news media.

Hashmat's family had earlier told that he had been detained for six hours after some intelligence officials whisked him away around 9am.

He returned to his Shahjahanpur residence around 3pm but went out, they said.

Mahmudur had claimed around 1pm that National Security Intelligence took Hashmat and were forcibly trying to file a case against him.

NSI director Shafiqullah told earlier that they had not detained anybody by that name. "He is probably sitting at home."

"This is reminiscent of June 16, 1975 when all but four newspapers were banned," Mahmudur said of Ali's detention. "Coincidentally, this is June again."

"I have heard that he is being coerced into bringing charges against me," he told "Is this what they have learnt from the Moeen Uddins, the perpetrators of 1/11?"

"I guess they will try to file a case against me," he said.

Mahmudur took over the management of the newspaper in 2008. Later he sent a letter to the deputy commissioner for serving as editor of the newspaper. Since then he has been the acting editor of the newspaper.

Mahmudur, also the chairman of Amar Desh Publications Limited, said "This daily speaks for a free and sovereign state. As a result, many of its news are not going in favour of the government and are displeasing them. So they are trying to shut it down."


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