Bangladesh protests arrest of diplomat in New York as treaty violation

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh said on Wednesday (June 14) the arrest of one of its diplomats in New York on charges of labour trafficking and assault appeared to be a violation of an international treaty on the treatment of diplomats.

Mohammad Shahedul Islam, the deputy consul general of Bangladesh Consulate General in New York was indicted on Monday on charges of labour trafficking and assault for forcing his domestic helper to work without pay through threats and intimidation.

"We have reasons to believe that the arrest is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963. We have lodged a strong protest with the chargé d'affaires of the United States Embassy in Dhaka," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry on Tuesday summoned a US diplomat to express its dismay over the arrest.

Islam has limited diplomatic immunity and was ordered to surrender his passport when he appeared in court in New York, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown in a statement on Monday.

According to the indictment, Islam brought another Bangladeshi, Ruhul Amin, to New York between 2012 and 2013 to work as household help.

Soon after Amin arrived, Islam allegedly took his passport and made him work 18 hours a day, allegedly without pay, according to the indictment. "If the victim disobeyed the defendant's orders, Mr Amin was allegedly physically assaulted," it said.

A spokesman for the Bangladesh embassy in Washington said it believed Amin had filed the case in bad faith and the allegations were "fabricated" and "baseless".

Bail was set at US$50,000 (S$68.979.50) bond or US$25,000 cash.

Shameem Ahsan, the Bangladeshi consul general in New York, told Reuters on Wednesday from New York that Islam has been released from a correctional centre.

Islam was not immediately available for comment.

The Bangladeshi embassy in Washington was in contact with the State Department about the prompt resolution of the case, the foreign ministry said. "We hope our concerns will be duly addressed," it said.