A British lawyer for an engineer detained for nearly a month after surviving a deadly siege at a Dhaka cafe has slammed authorities for refusing his client access to legal representation.
Police seized Hasnat Karim for questioning after the July 1 attack on the western-style cafe by Islamist militants that left 20 hostages and two police officers dead.
Relatives said Karim, who holds dual Bangladesh and British nationality, was used as a human shield by the Islamists during the attack after going to the cafe with his wife to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.
His lawyer Rodney Dixon, speaking from London, said the 47-year-old was being held at a secret location in Bangladesh and was being interrogated without a lawyer present.
“He cannot be kept incommunicado in detention. He must have access to his lawyers while he is being questioned,” Dixon told reporters on Wednesday (July 27).
“They should release him immediately since there is no evidence of his involvement in any crime. There is absolutely no evidence that he was the ring leader or involved in any way in the attack,” he said.
Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan confirmed this week that Karim was still being held, without saying whether he would face charges or when he would be released.
Investigators detained Karim after video footage showed him walking with the attackers on the cafe’s roof during the siege.
A British High Commission official said they have so far been denied access to Karim, despite ongoing requests.
Another survivor of the attack, Tahmid Khan, 22, a student at the University of Toronto, was also still being interrogated, as police try to piece together what happened during the siege.
Militants killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, when they raided the upscale Holey Artisan restaurant on the night of July 1. Army commandoes stormed the cafe the next morning, killing all five attackers and rescuing 13 people, including Karim, his wife and their two children, as well as Khan.
The Daesh (Islamic State) group claimed responsibility for the attack, but police blame home-grown extremist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
Karim’s father said his son, a director of a civil engineering firm who grew up in England and went to university there, was “not religious”.
“He goes to gym for exercise and occasionally to clubs for drinking beer. He is a simple man who does not like to socialise with people,” Rezaul Karim told reporters, rejecting local media reports that Hasnat knew one of the attackers through a Bangladesh university.
Karim’s lawyers have filed a petition to the UN, urging a team from the international body to travel to Bangladesh to visit him in detention.