Close friend of the University of Sunderland and frequent visiting photojournalist Shahidul Alam has been bailed after spending more than three months in a Bangladeshi jail.
The 63-year-old activist had been in police custody since his arrest on August 5.
He was arrested following an interview he gave to Al Jazeera in which he spoke about the government following issues raised during the then-ongoing student protests in Dhaka.
Since his imprisonment students and academics from Sunderland – and across the world – have been calling for the release of the internationally renowned photographer.
Last month, more than 80 staff and students, along with campaigners and peace activists, unveiled photographs taken by Shahidul at the University’s Priestman Gallery.
Academics and activists from Amnesty International gave speeches to the packed gallery before a procession carrying banners made their way to the University’s Northern Centre of Photography.
Simultaneous protests were launched at universities across the country.
On Thursday a High Court in Bangladesh granted bail to Shahidul, a move welcomed by the photographer’s friend Arabella Plouviez, Professor of Photography and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland.
She said: “We are really hopeful that this means that Shahidul will be released immediately. It has been a terrible time for him but the level of support internationally has been fantastic.
“Here at Sunderland, our students have been very involved in supporting the call for Shahidul’s release and we all hope that the granting of bail will see him ultimately freed.”
The ongoing campaign demanding justice for the photographer is backed with the hashtag #freeshahidulalam
Sofia Karim, Shahidul’s niece who lives in the UK, said: “My uncle has been granted bail. Thanks all of you who spoke out and worked so hard to support us. You, his great big family, helped us achieve this.”
A myriad of international voices including 12 Nobel Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hollywood actress and activist Sharon Stone, Amartya Sen, and several British MPs, including Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, have also been fighting to draw attention to the case.
Shahidul was taken from his home in the Dhanmondi neighbourhood of Dhaka by more than 30 members of the Dhaka metropolitan police and arrested for damaging “the image of the nation”.
He had been being held under the controversial section 57 of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, which carries up to 14 years in prison, and which has been used in more than 20 cases recently involving journalists.
Shahidul’s photography focuses on exposing abuses of power, including images of the genocide of the 1971 Bangladeshi war of liberation. He founded the picture agencies Drik and Majority World, and the photography school Pathshala South Asian Media Institute.
Viewed as a leader in his field, Shahidul has played a key role in educating and empowering Bangladeshi’s to photograph themselves, presenting their lives in a way which opposes western stereotypes and images.