Shahidul Alam was not charged when he was arrested on propaganda charges in August. His release on bail comes after international pressure and ahead of elections in Bangladesh in December.
Shahidul Alam, a 63-year-old, award-winning photographer and social activist, had been arrested at his home in Dhaka in August shortly after giving an interview to television channel Al Jazeera. He had accused the government of extrajudicial killings and corruption.
Not charged, Shahidul Alam has been investigated under a section of the law on information and communication technology on suspicion of spreading propaganda and false information. The charges carry a 14-year jail sentence if proven.
"Today the high court granted bail to Shahidul Alam after he was held in custody for 102 days. When the court granted him bail, it was noted that did Alam did not confess or admit to any of the allegations against him," Shahidul Alam's attorney Sara Hossain told DW.
"The court also noted that the statements recorded in the police record are completely different and inconsistent with statements in an interview Alam gave to Al Jazeera," she added. "We hope that the government will respect the court's order and not in any way prolong or extend what has already been a grotesque travesty of justice."
International support for Alam
There had been calls for Alam's release from around the world. US newspapers The New York Times and Washington Post published commentaries supporting him and calling for him to be set free.
Deutsche Welle's Director General Peter Limbourg also called for his release. Alam has a long working relationship with DW, having served for five years as the Bengali-language judge for DW's online activism awards known as The Bobs.
Greeting the decision on Thursday, Hossain said, "We're delighted that ultimately the court has granted him bail."
In October, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she believed Alam had caused trouble and spread false news about protests against her rule, accusations Alam, his family and legal counsel rejected.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam reacted by saying, "We will soon appeal to the Supreme Court against this bail decision."
A third term for Hasina?
Under Hasina's premiership, Bangladesh adopted the law penalizing media which publish or broadcast anything deemed to be against the public interest.
In the lead-up to the vote, which has been put back by a week to December 30, activists and prominent dissidents including student leaders have been arrested. The opposition claims 5,000 activists have been detained in recent weeks, undermining a local presence to campaign for the election.
Hasina is running for a third consecutive term in office. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), whose leader Khaleda Zia is behind bars, boycotted the 2014 election over fears the vote would be rigged. This allowed Hasina a second term unchallenged.
"Our activists are still being arrested," BNP spokesman Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said in Dhaka.
jm/sms (Reuters, AFP)