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Stockholm: Skyline International is calling for immediate action to secure the release of Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, two prominent human rights defenders in Bangladesh who have been unjustly detained.

On September 14, 2023, Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, Director of Odhikar, were sentenced to two years in prison along with fines, following an appalling ten-year period of relentless judicial harassment. They are currently being held at Dhaka Central Jail. Skyline International condemns these unjust sentences and demands their immediate release.

This grave injustice stems from Odhikar's publication of an investigative report in 2013, documenting extrajudicial killings by the State in response to a protest that occurred in May of that year. In 2013, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan were subjected to arbitrary detention, with Khan detained for 62 days and Elan for 25 days before being released on bail. Since then, they have been subjected to continuous judicial harassment, with Bangladeshi courts repeatedly dismissing their requests without valid legal grounds. Witness prosecutions have occurred without the consent of the defendants' lawyers and without adequate time for cross-examination, a clear violation of the internationally recognized right to a fair trial.

The Bangladeshi authorities accelerated the legal proceedings against Khan and Elan after the United States imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a notorious paramilitary organization, and its leaders in December 2021. Odhikar and similar human rights groups were unjustly blamed for these sanctions. Over the years, Khan, Elan, and Odhikar have been the targets of smear campaigns, criticism, and demonization by the government due to their invaluable human rights advocacy. In June 2022, Odhikar's registration renewal was denied after being pending for eight years.

In Bangladesh, human rights violations by security forces, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture, continue to be rampant, often with impunity. Rather than prosecuting and holding accountable those who document and expose these violations, the government has chosen to persecute human rights defenders.

The harassment of Odhikar has drawn widespread condemnation from numerous international bodies, including the United Nations Special Procedures, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General in its latest reprisals report, and the European Parliament.

Skyline International urges the authorities of Bangladesh to take immediate and unconditional action to release Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, overturn their wrongful convictions, and put an end to the ongoing judicial harassment targeting them.

Furthermore, we call upon the international community to rally in support of human rights defenders in Bangladesh and demand the release of all individuals imprisoned in retaliation for their legitimate and unwavering human rights work.

Skyline International stands firmly in solidarity with Adilur and Elan. Inspired by their courage, dedication, and resilience, we remain unwavering in our commitment to advocating for their release and enabling them to continue their vital human rights work without fear of reprisals.