Int HR lawyer barred from holding press meet in B'desh

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Dhaka, Feb 22 (UNI) International human rights lawyer William Sloan of Canada was barred from holding his pre-departure press conference here this afternoon.

Plain-clothed security personnel stopped mediapersons at the main entrance of the Sonargaon Hotel where the conference was scheduled.

A hotel security personnel told them that the lawyer's press conference was cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances.

Mr Sloan, also the president of American Association of Jurists, the Canadian chapter, came to Dhaka on February 16 to witness the case proceedings against former prime minister Sheikh Hasina as well as the human rights situation in the country. He is scheduled to leave for Canada tomorrow.

He made an attempt to meet Sheikh Hasina at the special court on Tuesday but security personnel did not allow him to enter the court on the ground that he has no permission from the concerned authority.

Barrister Shafique Ahmed, top counsel of the detained Sheikh Hasina, came out of the hotel and told mediapersons that the government posted police in front of Mr Sloan's room in the hotel.

''Mr William Sloan has booked 'Chitra' room to hold the press conference, but we found the room locked and the hotel management said the press conference has been cancelled,'' he said.

Barrister Shafique said, ''The press conference was called by Mr Sloan, but he did not cancel it. You can clearly understand from this that the government doesn't want that he speaks to the press.'' He mentioned that the Canadian came to Bangladesh as a lawyer and human rights activist. ''The act of government will tarnish the image of the country a bit,'' he said.

Responding to a question, Barrister Shafique said, Mr Sloan did not say anything yet, but the government, apprehending something, stopped the press conference.

He expressed his regret on behalf of the lawyer.

On Wednesday, Mr Sloan exchanged his views with the Supreme Court lawyers when he said the world is keeping eyes on the trial of Sheikh Hasina, as he was doubtful about the transparency of the trial proceedings.

He said the way the trial is being held ''keeping the people in dark'' will not be acceptable to the international community.

''I have been asked by my Association to watch the trial process and the human rights situation here. I will submit my report to the Association and the report will be published,'' he said, adding, ''I have not come here to defend anyone.'' Sheikh Hasina, who ruled the country for five years from 1996, was arrested on July 16 last year in connection with an extortion case of Tk 3 crore filed by a top executive of a local power company.

On Feb 6, the High Court declared illegal the trial of the case under the Emergency Power Rules and quashed the entire proceedings of the case. The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court.

UNI XC SKB KP1838

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