A group of noted citizens, including Dr Kamal Hossain, on Saturday demanded the release of over 50 students, belonging to Chhatra Odhikar Parishad arrested around two months backs, on bail before Eid-ul-Fitr.
They made the demand at a press conference at the conference room of the Gonoshasthaya Kendra in the city’s Dhanmondi area.
On May 5, 18 eminent citizens sent a letter to Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain requesting him to take steps to remove the barriers to the release of the arrested students on bail.
The students were arrested during their protests against the Digital Security Act and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Bangladesh.
Joining the press conference virtually, Gonoforum President and veteran jurist Dr Kamal Hossain said the arrested students should be granted bail. “Bail is a matter of rights, not a matter of mercy.”
He said students always work to mobilise public opinion and wage movements on different important and time-befitting issues. “We’ve always encouraged this practice. So, the students should be granted bail.”
Mentioning that the judiciary has a long tradition of granting bail to student leaders, he said even the lower court played a courageous role in giving bail to students in the past.
“We can recall that leaders had been taken to jail for their various remarks during the tough movements in the past. But they were given bail by the court immediately after filing petitions.”
He said people had been kept in jail by implicating them in Agartala conspiracy case. “We then showed the power of court by securing bail for them. “The lower court used to grant bail whoever was caught in the past.”
Speaking at the press conference, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury said getting bail is people’s human and legal right. “Now our main problem is that judges are no longer driver by conscience. They’re heavily controlled by the government and the police.
He said it has been over a month since the cases were filed against the students, but they are not being granted bail. “Five similar cases were filed and it’s necessary to get bail in all the cases which is a long trial process. A specific directive should be given by the Chief Justice in this regard.”
Stating that eid will be celebrated within a few days, he urged the Chief Justice to ensure bail for the students before the festival exercising the judiciary’s constitutional power. “It must be remembered that these students have been created today's Bangladesh. The Bengali language was established as the students waged the language movement.”
Earlier, Dhaka University teacher Prof Asif Nazrul read out the letter sent to the Chief Justice by the 18 eminent on citizens on May 5 in this regard.
Freedom fighter Sheikh Rafiqul Islam Bablu, chief coordinator of Ganosamhati Andolon Zonayed Saki, writer and anthropologist Rehnuma Ahmed, noted photographer Shahidul Alam, and former vice president of Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu) Nurul Haque Nur, among others, spoke at the programme.
Eighteen noted citizens who sent the letter to the Chief Justice include Dr Kamal Hossain, Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury, Dr Zafrullah, Barrister Mainul Hosein, Hafizuddin Khan, ASM Abur Rob, Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Badiul Alam Majumder, Prof Dilara Chowdhury, Rehnuma Ahmed, Dr Reza Kibria, Asif Nazrul and Zonayed Saki.