What Rozina's lawyer said during bail plea hearing

Police escort investigative journalist Rozina Islam (C) to a court in Dhaka on 18 May 2021, a day after being arrested on accusation of stealing documents and taking images by the health ministry

Obtaining bail for Prothom Alo's senior journalist Rozina Islam in the case filed by the health ministry under the Officials Secrets Act, is not any favour or act of kindness, lawyer Ehsanul Haque Samaji said during the hearing of the bail plea in court.

It is her fundamental right to get bail, the lawyer said.

A virtual hearing on the case took place at the court of Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on Thursday. The court said the order on the bail will be delivered on Sunday.

Ehsanul Haque Samaji told the court that the case against Rozina is bailable. He also placed arguments in favour of bail.

Speaking to newsmen, he said he presented Section 12 of the Official Secrets Act.

"As per Section 12 of the act, if there are allegations rather than Section 3, in that case the it is cognisable and bailable," Samaji said.

According to penal code's Section 496, her obrining bail is not any kindness or favour. Rather it is her fundamental right to get bail.

Ehsanul Haque Samaji said, "Obtaining bail is her legal right. She deserves to be released on bail. She has the right to get bail. I also said, as she is a woman and sick, as per sub-section-1 of Section 479, she is a privileged person. As the offence is bailable, and above all, she qualifies to get consideration bail from the court. So let her bail plea be granted."

Well-known investigative journalist Rozina Islam on Monday went to the secretariat to perform her professional duty. The ministry officials there kept her confined for over five hours and handed her over to the Shahbagh police station at around 8:30pm. Later she was sued under Sections 379 and 4121 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Sections 3 and 4 under the Official Secrets Act. On the following day, Tuesday, the court turned down the prayer for her remand and sent her to Kashimpur women jail.

People from all walks of life including journalists, teachers, writers, cultural activists protested against Rozina Islam's harassment and arrest. United Nations also expressed concern over her arrest. Besides, different international human rights organisations and various organisations vocal for protecting rights of journalists expressed concern and demanded her immediate release.

In the hearing, lawyer Ehsanul Haque Samaji told the court that there is no element of Sections 3 and 4 under the Official Secrets Act in the first information report of the case. There must be a description of documents which she stole if the elements of Section 379 and 411 are to be includes. But there is no such description in the FIR.

As per description of the seized documents, those are not directly taken from Rozina Islam, rather a government official handed these over to the police official. So it is a matter of legal question whether the documents were recovered searching her body or she at all stole the documents and later those were recovered from her or not.

Speaking to newsmen, Rozina's lawyer said Section 3 of Official Secrets Act refers to espionage. But there is no mention espionage against Rozina Islam in the FIR.

Referring to Section 5 of the same act, Ehsanul Haque said, "I quoted Section 5 which mentions 'wrongful communication with the other enemy,' which means producing such documents and communicating with such a person that would go against the security of the state. But there is no such allegation in the FIR."

Ehsanul Haque told the court that allegations brought against Rozina were 'false, fabricated and baseless'. Rozina Islam has been victim of circumstances while risking her life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public prosecutor Hemayet Uddin Khan Hiron represented the state. He compared Rozina Islam with the scheming historical figure 'Ghasheti Begum'.

When asked why no objection was raised to this reference, Ehsanul Haque Samaji said, "As a officer of the court and a lawyer, he should not have used such words. As per norm of hearing, we avoid objecting during the hearing. Later I mentioned that what he said was his personal opinion. He did not give any reference of law."

A video of conversations between Rozina Islam and some officials and policemen at the secretariat went viral on social media on Wednesday.

Drawing the reference it was said Rozina Islam admitted her guilt. Later, a video of seven minutes showed Rozina is being harassed. This matter also came up during the hearing.