Hollywood star Sharon Stone has posted a letter on Twitter, signed by an assortment of Nobel Laureates and activists, calling for the release of jailed Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam.
Alam, a leading figure of the Bangledeshi art scene who has done much to protect human rights in his native country, was arrested on August 5. He was charged with violating Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act by criticizing the government on social media and on Al Jazeera, following recent student protests. The case has provoked widespread outrage.
“We the undersigned raise our joint voice against arbitrary police remand under the draconian ICT Act against Dr. Shahidul Alam. We urge that the government investigate allegations of unlawful arrest immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Shahidul Alam,” the letter reads. “We also urge that the government immediately release all students who have been arrested after the protest and take every step to ensure human rights of all citizens, including freedom of speech, freedom of media, and freedom of association for all.”
Stone identified herself in the letter as an actress and human rights activist. Famous for roles in films such as Casino and Basic Instinct, she has taken a relatively lower profile since a near-fatal 2001 brain hemorrhage, though she is set to star in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh-directed HBO whodunit Mosaic. As a rights activist she has, among other things, spoken at the Hague alongside UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
The actress may be the most famous person sharing the letter, but she is certainly not the most consequential. Also putting their names to the letter are Love Actually director Richard Curtis, businessman Richard Branson, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and no less than 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bangladesh’s own Muhammad Yunus.
Among the other signatories is Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which has also posted the letter on its website, albeit with a slightly different set of signatures that does not include Stone, but adds Paris’s mayor Anne Hidalgo and Arianna Huffington. Stone shared the letter Saturday, while Kennedy’s version was published yesterday.
After seven days in custody, Alam appeared in court, where he was not permitted to have a lawyer, telling journalists that he had been tortured during his imprisonment. A judge denied Alam bail, leading to increasingly widespread calls for his release.
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