A Bangladeshi court on Tuesday sent a prominent pro-opposition editor to jail rejecting his bail plea after his overnight arrest on a defamation charge, days after he faced massive criticism for describing a woman journalist as “characterless” on a TV talk show.
“Rejected,” pronounced Dhaka’s additional chief metropolitan magistrate Kaisarul Islam after a brief hearing on Moinul Hosein’s bail plea after the 78-year-old appeared in the dock under heavy police escort.
Immediately after the order, police officers whisked away Hosein, himself a lawyer, to be sent to Dhaka Central Jail.
Plainclothesmen arrested Hosein, a former adviser and minister in the past caretaker government in 2007-2008, last night in compliance with an arrest warrant issued by a court in northwestern Rangpur.
Hosein had a played a key role in the formation of the recently-floated Unity Front, an alliance between the main opposition outside parliament - Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) - and several other left- and right-wing political groups and individuals.
In a talk show on October 16, journalist Masuda Bhatti had asked Hosein if he represented the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami in the Unity Front, as was speculated on social media.
“I thank you for your audacity (in asking the question) and want to call you a ‘characterless’ (person),” an angry Hosein replied.
Bhatti later said Hosein called her to apologise after the talk show but he still faces at least seven defamation cases filed nationwide by women’s rights groups, and has been severely criticised.
One of the cases was filed by Bhatti herself while Hosein managed to secure bail from the high court in three of the cases but police said they arrested him in a case where he was not protected under the high court order.
Hosein, owner and editor of the New Nation daily, is a well-known critic of the government and though he does not belong to any party, the 78-year-old is known for his right-wing political views.
The BNP denounced his arrest and demanded his release while several lawyers close to the party appeared in court as Hosein’s counsels in the bail plea hearing.
Hosein is the former chairman of the Board of Editors of the ‘Daily Ittefaq’, one of the country’s oldest newspapers.
His younger brother Anwar Hosein is a senior minister in the Cabinet as his faction of the Jatiya Party (JP) is a partner of the Awami League-led ruling coalition.
Hours ahead of the arrest, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had said that Hosein deserved punitive actions for his defamatory comments against a “lady colleague of yours”.
She also described him as “an agent of the 1971 Pakistani forces” and “no less responsible” for the killing of journalist Serajuddin Hossain during the 1971 Liberation War.