The European Union (EU) has called on the government of Bangladesh to foster an enabling environment for civil society to carry out their "work without fear of reprisals".
"Freedom of expression, freedom of association and a vibrant civil society are essential in a democratic society," said EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Nabila Massrali in a statement on Friday (15 September).
The Cyber Tribunal sentenced Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of NGO Odhikar, and ASM Nasiruddin, director of the organisation, to two years of imprisonment on charges under the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006.
They were subsequently detained in custody, said the spokesperson.
The EU has followed the Odhikar case closely and has repeatedly raised with the Bangladeshi authorities the need for due process for Odhikar's leadership, according to the EU statement.
The EU has also expressed its concern about the deregistration of Odhikar, which has made it excessively difficult for the organisation to function.
Earlier, on Thursday, the government of Bangladesh said it is appalled by what it called the favouritism, reflected in the European Parliament's resolution, to Odhikar, which in turn it called "a non-compliant and politically biased entity with proven record of circulating misinformation", and an accomplice of vested quarters that promote terrorism and violent extremism.
It is a fact known to all that Adilur Rahman Khan was appointed deputy attorney general by BNP-Jamaat government and worked in that capacity for five years from 2001 to 2006, the foreign ministry of Bangladesh said in a statement.
Therefore, 'Odhikar' is not at all a neutral or independent organisation that it tries to claim and is unfortunately believed by some in the international community, it said.
The timing and language of the joint motion, tabled by some political groups in the European Parliament, for making judgemental comments over sub-judice matters and a court verdict on two 'Odhikar' officials delivered on Thursday in Dhaka is reflective of their intention of interfering into the independent judiciary of a sovereign state, it added.