‘Missing’ Bangladeshi government critic found

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Dhaka, July 4 (IANS) A well-known columnist and government critic has been found safe a day after his family reported him missing, the police said on Tuesday.

Farhad Mazhar, a prominent poet, writer and human rights activist, sparked a police hunt after leaving his Dhaka home on Monday morning. There were reports of a ransom demand, BBC reported.

Police said Mazhar, 69, was eventually found late on Monday on a bus around 200 km from the capital Dhaka. It is unclear if he had been abducted.

He was brought to the capital from southwestern district of Jessore around 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

Mazhar was led away by unidentified men into a microbus when he left home to buy medicines, the police said citing his version of the disappearance.

Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) began a trace of Mazhar’s mobile phone after his wife said she had received a call from him saying he was being taken away and feared for his life.

She also told police she had received a ransom demand of 3.5 million taka ($43,300) for her husband’s release, Bdnews24.com reported.

After word of his disappearance was out, law enforcers expanded their search to the southwestern region of the country. Police tracked his mobile phone to the area in the evening.

Hours later, he was briefly spotted at a restaurant in Khulna city, about 250 km from Dhaka. But the police could not find him.

He was eventually found on a bus in Jessore travelling back to the capital.

Despite the family’s claim of abduction, law enforcers said they believe the poet-columnist “staged a drama” citing the circumstances.

Police said he was found in a stable condition and was carrying a bag of clothes, money and his phone’s charger.

He was taken to the court on Tuesday afternoon following hours of questioning at the Detective Branch offices in Dhaka.

Mazhar is a supporter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Human rights groups say enforced disappearances and abductions are rising in Bangladesh.

Party officials also say many of their activists and supporters have been detained illegally since 2014.

–IANS

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