For Journalist Probir Sikdar, justice is hard-earned – one that has been through extreme physical and mental suffering as well as incredible financial hardship.
Probir was acquitted by a Dhaka court on Thursday in a case filed under the ICT Act six years ago.
In an interview with The Business Standard hours after his acquittal, Probir Sikder said, "It is very sad that a person has lost six years of his life by appearing in court day after day.
"I have had to appear in court at least 50 times even after getting a bail," he added.
The journalist also elaborated on the financial toll the case took on him.
"Even though the cost of handling the case was borne by a private human rights organisation, I have suffered in many ways.
"I didn't get a chance to work. Newspapers were afraid to appoint me. Even businesses were afraid to provide my newspaper with advertisements. I was isolated. I had to make ends meet by selling land in my native home."
Probir Sikdar also claimed that the police had tortured him even before making a prayer for remand.
He, however, appreciated the court's verdict. "I think the court has not only acquitted me but also passively conveyed the message that people's freedom of expression should be upheld."
Probir, editor of Daily Bangla 71, was arrested on 16 August 2015 after Faridpur Awami League leader Swapan Kumar Paul filed a case over a Facebook post he made. Later, he got bail.
In the Facebook post, dated 10 August 2015, Probir said his life was under threat and that the then Local Government and Rural Development Minister Khandkar Mosharraf Hossain and two others would be responsible if he was killed.
Probir Sikdar said he was framed in the case. "In my Facebook post, there was no element to be sued. But, the case was filed by misusing power and I was arrested. I was physically tortured before being remanded after my arrest. The torture inflicted on me is beyond description."
The veteran journalist was paralysed when he was attacked in 2001 for publishing a series of reports in a national daily about razakars in Faridpur. "I lost a leg in the attack. I am leading a disabled's life."
"In such a situation, I was prosecuted in the ICT case and had to land in jail."
Explaining the difficulties of appearing in the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal about 50 times after getting released from prison on bail, Probir said, "My family members also regularly went to the court with me as I needed assistance as a disabled person. A day in court felt like a year to me."
"Although the cost of handling the case was borne by the human rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), I had to pay for travel and other expenses for attending the court, which I did not calculate. But, the burden of that unnecessary expenditure on me – a disabled person –was as heavy as a mountain."
"The suffering of having to go to the court in this manner tantamounted to physical abuse. As a result, I was exposed to many more complex diseases. Now my physical condition has turned worse.
"Apart from physical and mental abuse, I have also been socially and politically harassed due to this case."
Probir Sikdar said he would consult the lawyers to take legal action to seek compensation for the losses he had suffered because of the false case. "I will take this step once my physical condition improves a bit."
He also criticised the misuse of the Digital Security Act and demanded bail for all the people arrested in cases filed under this "black law", as well as withdrawal of all such cases and the abolishment of the law.
"To me, the Digital Security Act enacted by replacing the ICT Act is 'old wine in a new bottle'", adding, the law is a major barrier to freedom of expression.
"The court in its verdict said the case hampered my freedom of expression."
Probir Sikdar said, "I got justice. I am happy with this verdict and think this is a win for truth. Not only that, this verdict has given me more courage to raise my voice against injustice."