Finally cartoonist Arif is free

[Dhaka Correspondent]

Cartoonist Arifur Rahman has been freed from jail Thursday night, hours after a Dhaka court had ordered his release.

Deputy inspector general of prisons Major Shamsul Haider Siddiqui said Arif was freed at 7.30pm when jail authorities received the court order.

Earlier a Dhaka court on asked the authorities concerned to free Arifur Rahman, a cartoonist, who was detained after publication of cartoon in the Prothom Alo.

A global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, in January this year called him ‘a prisoner of conscience’ and demanded his immediate release. 

The court of magistrate Mosammat Ismat Ara passed the order in the presence of the accused, after the plaintiff in the case had repeatedly failed to appear in the court.

The magistrate, however, did not specify any timeframe for his release.

The latest court order came around two months after the High Court declared Arif’s detention illegal.

The cartoonist’s arrest and detention since September 2007 has also earned criticism from local and international rights groups.

Plaintiff Md Jane Alam, also the officer-in-charge of Tejgaon Police Station, has not appeared before the magistrate’s court since the end of November, 2007.

Tejgaon police sub inspector Md Abdur Rouf submitted a report to the court Thursday in which he mentioned that the plaintiff has been in East Timor since November 28 on a UN Mission and for that cause had failed to appear in court.

The counsels for the plaintiff were also absent in court Thursday.

Joint forces arrested Arif on September 18 after ultra-Islamist groups demonstrated against one of his cartoons published in the satire magazine of the Bangla daily what they claimed defamed the Prophet Muhammad and the government had confiscated all the copies of the satire magazine Alpin.

Subsequently the Prothom Alo’s editor and publisher apologised for printing the cartoon, and fired the cartoonist.

On February 4, the High Court ruled Arif’s detention illegal and ordered his immediate release.

It is noted that bloggers around the world observed oneday solidarity against his detention.

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