No access to lawyers for arrested C4 team

Malik: imprisoned since Monday

Lawyers were denied access to the Channel 4 crew held in Bangladesh for questioning following their arrest by police on the Indian border.

British journalist Zaiba Malik, Italian director/cameraman Bruno Sorrentino, their interpreter Priscila Raj and driver Mujib were expecting to hear whether their appeal for bail would be granted on Thursday.

Bangladeshi law prevents lawyers having access to prisoners on remand but the four were seen in court for the first of the hearings and are said to be "tired but bearing up well".

Malik and Sorrentino were working for Mentorn Midlands on a commission for Channel 4 to make a film for its foreign affairs strand Unreported World.

They had been working in Bangladesh for several weeks and had  interviewed a number of politicians, journalists and NGOs about the current state of Bangladesh. They were about to cross into India on the eastern border near Benapole when they were arrested.

Malik, who has worked on the BBC’s Panorama and Sorrentino, who has worked for Correspondent, have been imprisoned with the rest of their crew since Monday, when police were granted permission to detain them for questioning for five days.

No formal charges have been brought against them.

It has been speculated that they could face charges of "anti-Bangladeshi activity" and sedition.

A statement from Channel 4 said the broadcaster and Mentorn Midlands were "very concerned about the situation and have sought legal representation for the journalists".

Both the High Commission in Dakar and the British Foreign Office have been contacted and are monitoring developments.

The BBC also stepped in on behalf of Malik and Sorrentino, sending a letter to the Bangladesh High Commission from head of current affairs Peter Horrocks.

"We know them to be journalists of high integrity who would only conduct their journalism in a professional and objective manner," the letter said. "We call on your courts to respect their rights as film makers and we are confident they would not break the laws of any country.

"We respectfully request they are released immediately."

Reporters Without Borders has also complained about state security police intimidation of Saleem Samad, a journalist and local correspondent for RWB who is being sought by police because he helped the Channel 4 team.

The Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC) has also been under surveillance and has been threatened for helping the foreign journalists.

By Julie Tomlin

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