This statement is issued on behalf of an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Md. Matiur Rahman Akand, who also serves as the Central Public Secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh, which continues to fight for the lawful political representation of both its members and those that it represents in Bangladesh.
Mr. Akand, a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, was arrested upon his return to Bangladesh after having met with members of the legal team at Guernica 37 Chambers and other stakeholders pushing for free and fair elections in Bangladesh and for political space for Jamaat.
His arrest represents a serious deterioration in the political situation in Bangladesh and further evidence of the disintegration of the rule of law.
As Legal Counsel to Jamaat-e-Islami and a professional colleague of Mr. Akand, Toby Cadman, Joint Head of Guernica 37 Chambers, takes this opportunity to voice his abhorrence at the recent arrest of a practicing lawyer and human rights defender. Arrested on the basis of an aged case containing false information, this arrest is in fact the latest in a long line of politically motivated arrests of political opponents being used to silence the work of those reporting on, and peacefully resisting, the increasingly autocratic rule of the Awami League.
Jamaat-e-Islami, which continues to be de-registered as a political party as a result of politically motivated processes, its work has been purposefully impeded for nearly a decade, having ultimately had its registration application denied in 2022 on the grounds that it has “seriously tarnished the image of the state to the world.”
It is the work of legal professionals and human rights defenders to represent the truth and stand up for those most vulnerable in society. Each and every one of these abuses is serious, but through this important work, the world now knows that they go far beyond ballot stuffing and election rigging, and instead encompass some of the most egregious crimes, including torture, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killing.
The arrest of Md. Matiur Rahman Akand is just another step in the Awami League’s attempt to restore a veil of secrecy around its growing autocracy, and must not be tolerated. Judicial independence is the lynchpin of any functioning democracy. As the 2024 elections approach we call on the Bangladeshi criminal justice system to stand up for its citizens and immediately review the arrest, demonstrating that there may be a glimmer of hope for Bangladesh’s democracy and political freedom going forward.