Dhaka: The family of a British man secretly detained by Bangladesh law enforcement authorities for one month before being arrested for involvement in a terrorist attack that killed 22 people, has strongly criticised the UK government for its failure to do more to assist him.
47-year-old Hasnat Karim, a Bangladeshi-born British citizen, was detained by Bangladesh state agencies the day after surviving a terrorist attack on an up-market restaurant, where he was dining with his wife and two children on evening of July 1.
Karim, a business man, was only brought to court on August 4, after the police claimed that they had arrested him outside a Dhaka shopping mall a day earlier.
Hasnat Karim’s father, Rezaul Karim, told The Wire that he was very upset by the inability of the British High Commission officials to gain consular access to his son during the period of his illegal detention.
“I was extremely disappointed that that British government officials did not push harder to obtain access to my son during the period of his detention,” he said.
“Our family members regularly told the officials where Hasnat was being held, but they were not very responsive. For so many days Hasnat was being illegally held, but no one got access to him.”
The criticism of Britain’s diplomats comes as the Bangladesh police on Saturday showed Hasnat arrested for terrorism offences in the criminal case involving the militant attack on Holey Artistan Bakery, and the court remanded him for a further period of eight days.
The police told the court that they needed to question him further in relation to incriminating photographs taken of Hasnat during the raid.
Karim’s lawyer had argued in court that his client had already been detained by the law enforcement authorities for one month until he was brought to the court on August 4, after which the court then remanded him into further police detention for 8 more days.
“He has already been questioned for a long period of time. To detain him further and arrest him makes a mockery of the investigation,” Karim’s lawyer, Mahbubul Alam Dulal told the court. Karim is the first person to be shown arrested in this case.
Rezaul Karim, who strongly argues that his son is innocent and denied that he had any complicity with the attackers, also questioned whether the British government’s failure to push harder for his son’s interest’s during the period of his illegal detention was due to his religion and ethnicity.
“Our family is forced to ask whether the British High Commission would have taken a stronger role if Hasnat was not Muslim or Bengali?” he said.
“Is Hasnat being punished now and being allowed to be unjustly persecuted for the same reasons that the terrorists allowed him and the other hostages to live?” he said, referring to the fact that the militants freed most of the Bangladeshis from the restaurant.
The father added that, “We hope that the British government takes real steps to ensure that Hasnat as a British citizen receives a fair and transparent investigation.”
A spokesperson for the British High Commission told The Wire that officials had been “in contact with Bangladeshi authorities following the detention of a Bangladeshi-British citizen and requested consular access.”
It went on to add that “Since the arrest on August 3, we continue to press the authorities for consular access, but cannot get involved in the legal system of another country just as other countries cannot interfere with the justice system in the UK.”
The Bangladesh government has international legal obligations under section 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to permit British consular officers access to any ‘detained’ person with UK citizenship.
The 22 year old student, Tahmid Hossain Khan, a Canadian resident, illegally detained along with Karim, was on Saturday given a further 6 day remand by the court, but was not shown arrested in the Holey attack case.