Shahidul Alam, an award-winning photographer and activist in Bangladesh, has been released from jail on bail after spending more than 100 days behind bars.
Authorities had said the 63-year old had made “provocative” statements during an interview with Al Jazeera and on Facebook, commenting on the mass student protests that gripped the country’s capital, Dhaka, in August.
Alam, who was granted bail on Thursday and freed on Tuesday, told the AFP news agency that he hoped his release would “signal freedom for many others” also arrested during the protests.
“It is a fantastic feeling to be free in a free country, breathing free air. But I hope for freedom for everyone else,” Alam said.
The photographer had previously said he was badly beaten while in custody.
Despite being released from prison, Alam still faces a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted.
His lawyers have argued that Alam’s detention was “a clear violation” of his fundamental rights under Bangladesh’s constitution.
Reacting to the news of his his release, Amnesty International said Bangladesh authorities must immediately drop charges against him and “uphold its international commitments to protect the right to freedom of expression”.
“Shahidul Alam is a bold representation of Bangladesh through his lens. He should not have been detained at the first place,” Saad Hammadi, Amnesty’s regional campaigner for South Asia, said.
Alam was arrested shortly after widespread demonstrations began in Bangladesh when a speeding bus killed two teenagers on July 29.
Following that accident, student protesters pressed the government to make the country’s chaotic and lethal roads safer.
In an interview about the protests, however, Alam told Al Jazeera that the protests were about more than road safety alone.
He highlighted “the looting of the banks and the gaggling of the media” and widespread “extrajudicial killings, disappearings, bribery and corruption” as the real reasons behind the public’s growing anger.
He said civil discontent in the country had been building for a very long time and the killing of the two teenagers was only “a valve” through which that unhappiness was released.
Alam then said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had lost all credibility in the eyes of the Bangladeshi public for failing to institute reforms.
He also connected the government’s brutal response to the current protests to the general election that is expected to take place later this year.
Hours after his interview, Alam was arrested and charged under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology (ICT) Act, a broad law against electronic communication that “tends to deprave or corrupt” the image of the state.