Bangladeshi tells of 22 hours of torture

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Bangladesh on Thursday of beating and torturing a reporter with links to the group.

Tasneem Khalil, a Human Rights Watch consultant who was also a reporter for “The Daily Star” and a CNN freelance, said he was arrested last May by the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence in his Dhaka home and taken to a “torture cell.”

“Suddenly people on both sides of me started brutally beating me with batons on the lower back, just below and next to my kidneys. The pain was excruciating,” Khalil wrote for a Human Rights Watch report about his detention.

He said he was questioned about stories he had reported on, his connections with Human Rights Watch and links to foreign diplomats.

“I could be a tough guy and get more of this, or I could cooperate. I quickly decided that it was time to cooperate with these people and do my best to dodge more beatings,” he wrote. “I said I was sorry for whatever I had done.”

He says he was forced to write a confession and then beg for mercy.

The Bangladeshi embassy in Washington was not immediately available for comment.

Khalil said he was released after 22 hours and went into hiding with his wife and daughter for a month. Human Rights Watch said international pressure compelled Bangladeshi authorities to allow Khalil to seek asylum in Sweden.

“Rampant illegal detention and torture are clear evidence of Bangladesh’s security forces running amok,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

“Tasneem Khalil’s prominence as a critical journalist may have prompted his arrest, but it also may have saved his life. Ordinary Bangladeshis held by the security forces under the emergency rules have no such protections,” he said.

Human Rights Watch urged the Bangladeshi interim government to make protection of human rights as important as its fight against corruption. The army-backed interim government took office on Jan. 11, 2007, after protracted political violence.

It is undertaking an anti-corruption purge ahead of planned elections before the end of 2008.