Bangladesh police arrest prominent human rights activist

Human rights group Odhikars' secretary Adilur Rahman Khan (centre) being taken away by the police in Dhaka on August 11, 2013. A Dhaka court on Sunday granted police a 10-day remand to grill Mr Khan for allegedly distorting facts about the May 5 poli
Human rights group Odhikars' secretary Adilur Rahman Khan (centre) being taken away by the police in Dhaka on August 11, 2013. A Dhaka court on Sunday granted police a 10-day remand to grill Mr Khan for allegedly distorting facts about the May 5 police drive against Hifazat-e Islam activists in Dhaka. -- PHOTO: DEMOTIX

DHAKA (AFP) - The police in Bangladesh on Sunday said they have arrested a prominent human rights activist for spreading "false and fabricated information" about a May security force crackdown on hardline Islamist protesters.

Plainclothes officers detained Mr Adilur Rahman Khan, the secretary of Bangladeshi rights group Odhikar, at his home late on Saturday and he has been remanded into custody for five days for questioning, Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman said.

Odhikar expressed concern that Mr Khan might be tortured during his detention, while the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has protested the arrest.

"He spread false and fabricated information on the Shapla Chattar operation," Mr Rahman told AFP, referring to the May 5 to 6 crackdown on Islamist group Hefajat-e-Islam.

At the time, the police said they used sound grenades, water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse at least 70,000 Islamists who were camped around the Motijheel commercial area.

The police said they recovered 11 dead bodies after the operation, including an officer who had been hacked in the head with machetes.

But in a detailed report on the operation released last month, Odhikar challenged the police and government version of events, claiming that around 60 people were killed in the crackdown, making it one of the deadliest in the country's history.

Mr Khan, a lawyer, has also been a prominent critic of government security force human-rights abuses, including hundreds of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Earlier this month, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Bangladeshi security forces have killed at least 150 protesters since February, using excessive force during demonstrations against war crime trials for top Islamists.

Though none of its members have been tried for atrocities, Hefajat-e-Islam joined the protests in May, demanding, among other things, a ban on public mixing between men and women and the death penalty for blasphemy.

HRW said at least 50 people were killed in the May 5 to 6 crackdown.