The bail process of Prothom Alo's senior correspondent Rozina Islam was prolonged until Sunday as a Dhaka court decided to pass the order after scrutinising case documents.
This has caused the investigative journalist to languish in jail for at least three more days.
On Thursday, the court of Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Baki Billah heard arguments from both sides on the bail petition of Rozina and fixed Sunday to deliver its decision on the issue.
Meanwhile, protests that flared up soon after Rozina's detention at the Secretariat continued for the fourth day, with more rights bodies joining it.
The protesters condemned her imprisonment and stood firm in their demand for unconditional release of Rozina Islam.
Earlier on the day, the chief metropolitan magistrate's court fixed 12 noon to hear Rozina's bail plea but the hearing started at 12:45pm and continued until 2pm.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge said he would pass order on the petition after scrutinising the documents very soon.
Asked by defense lawyers whether the court would deliver the order on Thursday or not, the judge said the court would announce the order after hearing some 30 other petitions on the same day.
At around 4 pm, the court announced that it would give its decision on Sunday, as the prosecution lawyers appealed for submitting a video content that reportedly shows that Rozina agreed to give an undertaken against her "misdeed".
During the hearing, the lawyer of Rozina Islam told the court that the journalist by no means can be held accused by law.
"As per Sections 1 and 2 of the Public-Interest Information Disclosure Act (Provide Protection) 2011, no criminal, civil and other departmental cases can be filed against the publisher for disclosing accurate information in the public interest," said lawyer Prashanta Karmaker while defending Rozina in the court.
Earlier, he said the Official Secrets Act 1923 served as a mean to quell Anti-British movements.
"The journalist accused here did not go to any place run by the military or to any secret location," he said.
The defence team consisting of lawyers Ehsanul Haque Samaji, Jotirmay Barua and Prashanta Kumar Karmaker pleaded to the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Baki Billah to order Rozina's bail at the earliest due to her sickness, inconsistency of the mentioned penal codes in the case statement and also alleged wrong information in the First Information Report.
"She took Covid vaccine that day [Monday] and is also a diabetic patient. She needs to be granted bail as soon as possible," Prashanta said.
Lawyer Hemayetuddin Khan Hiron, Asaduzzaman and Tapash Paul represented the state in the court.
Earlier on Tuesday, police produced Rozina Islam before the court and sought a five-day remand for her. Rejecting remand plea, Metropolitan Magistrate Mohammad fixed 20 May to hear Rozina's bail plea.
On that day, Rozina was sent to jail following a court order.
Meanwhile, the case was handed over to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Detective Branch (DB) on Wednesday.
HM Azimul Haque, deputy commissioner of Ramna division, told journalists that they were not under any pressure from any quarter in dealing with the case against Rozina Islam.
"The investigation into the case against Rozina will continue at its own pace. There is no pressure here," said HM Azimul Haque.
Investigation will be neutral, he added.
Rozina was kept confined at the health ministry for more than five hours on Monday before being handed over to police.
Later, she was shown arrested in the case on charges of spiriting away "important" documents.
Rozina, known for dozens of ground-breaking reports in her career, was charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act 1923.
The journalist is known for her strong reportage of official corruption. She has recently made several investigative reports revealing corruptions in the health sector.
Protests continue at home and abroad
The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – an international organisation for journalist's safety and security – urged the Bangladeshi government to restore its credibility by ordering Rozina's immediate release.
"The arrest of Rozina Islam and the allegations brought against her are particularly shocking since they are clearly based on a crude frame-up," said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.
"Illegal detention, torture, intimidation, fabrication of evidence…the way the police and judicial authorities have handled this case brings shame on the rule of law in Bangladesh. We call on Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal to order her immediate and unconditional release and for the absurd charges against her to be dropped. His government's credibility is at stake."
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday said the detention of journalist Rozina Islam was a major strike against media freedom and that it sent a terrifying message to journalists uncovering corruption in Bangladesh.
It urged authorities to drop all oppressive charges against Rozina Islam, read a press release.
"Bangladesh authorities should produce evidence of wrongdoing or immediately release Rozina Islam and stop arresting journalists for doing their job, which is also to highlight governance flaws," said Brad Adams, Asia director at the Human Rights Watch.
The Dhaka Reporters Unity, the Telecom Reporters Network Bangladesh, the Reporters Against Corruption, the Dhaka Union of Journalists, the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, the Bangladesh Secretariat Reporters Forum (BSRF), the Bangladesh Photojournalist Association, Barisal Divisional Journalist Association (BDJA), Faridpur journalist foundation, Dhaka (FJF), Shariatpur Journalists' Association (SJA), Rangpur Divisional Journalist Association (RDJA), Television Camerajournalist Association, Jatiya Party and several other political and social organisations arranged demonstrations and announced that they would not stop until Rozina's release.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday said his ministry will have to face question from international community for the whole incident regarding Rozina Islam.
"It's very regrettable. The government of Sheikh Hasina is a media-friendly one. We've nothing to hide. I know as the foreign ministry we've to face it. Many will raise questions. We don't want such incidents," Dr Momen said, adding that "you (questioner) may be right" that a few people bring bad fame for the government.
Dr Momen said this should be managed by the health ministry.
Referring to what his other colleagues said, Dr Momen said, "It's unexpected." Rozina would get justice, he added.
Meanwhile, Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel, deputy minister for education, has been declared a persona non grata at Dhaka Reporters' Unity (DRU).
DRU General Secretary Mashiur Rahman on Thursday made the declaration, responding to a recent Facebook post by the deputy minister regarding Rozina Islam.
DRU GS Mashiur Rahman said, "He will not be able to attend any programme of the DRU."
He added that the DRU would not rent out its conference rooms to any event where Mohibul Hasan will be present as a guest.