Activist Samiul Biswas held in judicial custody on charges of theft

Samjul Biswas, a volunteer of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), who has been instrumental in documenting human rights violations committed by the BSF and other state agents along the India-Bangladesh border, was sent to judicial custody at Krishnanagar district jail by Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court, last week. He was arrested by the BSF of Mahakhola Border Outpost, near the Indo-Bangla border in West Bengal, on charges of theft relating to his “procession” of Bangladeshi currency and a Bangladeshi SIM card, the evidence for which is believed to have been falsified.

Given the prevalence of smuggling on the border, the charges appear to be an effort to slander the defender by implicating him in illegal activity.  He has also been active in mobilising the local community to resist the alleged torture and illegal restrictions on movement carried out by the BSF.

Prior to his arrest, on March 8, MASUM filed a complaint to National Human Rights Commission on behalf of Samiul Biswas regarding the illegal and forceful confiscation of his bicycle by the BSF on January  29 and the denial of access to his home by BSF officers since February 16.

The BSF’s actions have prevented the human rights defender from transporting goods to his shop, which has impacted his livelihood and that of his family. Their actions have also prevented the defender from staying in his home and he has been forced to stay with several different friends. The human rights defender also fears for his safety following the threats and intimidation from the BSF.

On March 18, at around 7pm, Samiul Biswas was detained for three hours by the BSF at the Hathkhola BSF camp, during which he was slapped by officers. He was charged with theft under section 379 of the Indian Penal Code after being “found” in possession of 6500 Bangladeshi taka as well as a Bangladeshi SIM card.

Front Line Defenders (FLD) expresses serious concern over the detention of and fabricated charges against Samiul Biswas. Expressing its deepest concern for the physical and psychological integrity of Samiul Biswas and other MASUM members, it urged the authorities to immediately drop all charges against and release him immediately and unconditionally.

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