The Malaysian Immigration Department has said Rayhan Kabir, the detained Bangladeshi national, will be deported to Bangladesh and blacklisted for criticising Putrajaya’s handling of migrants during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a brief statement, the agency confirmed that Rayhan was arrested by its intelligence unit on Friday afternoon from Setapak in Kuala Lumpur, following a two-week manhunt.
“This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever,” said its Director-General Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud, reported Malay Mail.
Meanwhile, two lawyers — Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna (Chambers of Sumitha) and Selvaraja Chinniah (Messrs CR Selva) — have been appointed to defend Rayhan Kabir.
“Pdrm [Royal Malaysian Police] and immigration have been informed [of the lawyers’ appointment] via email today. In our letter, we have sought a date to meet our client. We will be at Bukit Aman [police headquarters] on Monday, 27 July 2020, at 2:00pm, to meet our client,” Sumitha told The Daily Star.
“Sunday is a holiday. So, on Monday when we will meet Rayhan, we can know what charges are brought against him and then see how we proceed,” she said.
The Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, which has not made any statement since the manhunt by Malaysian police began more than two weeks ago, yesterday said it was waiting for a letter from Malaysian authorities before taking any steps.
The high commission will take action regarding the arrest once the mission receives an official letter over the incident from the Malaysian government, said Bangladesh missions Labour Counsellor Zahirul Islam.
“We are dealing with the issue,” he said, adding, “Steps will be taken as per the letter issued through the diplomatic channel.”
Rayhan, 25, who went to Malaysia in 2014 and had been working after completing his bachelor’s, became the target of Malaysia’s manhunt after his criticisms against Putrajaya’s detention of undocumented migrant workers in an Al Jazeera documentary titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”, which was aired on July 3.
In the 26-minute video produced by Al Jazeera’s 101 East team, he accused the authorities of racism against undocumented migrants, claiming that being an illegal immigrant in Malaysia is not a crime.
The documentary said the undocumented migrants were at risk during the coronavirus pandemic when more than 2,000 migrant workers were arrested during raids in locked down areas in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.
After the broadcast of the documentary, Malaysian immigration issued a public announcement with Rayhan’s photos and addresses, asking people to help arrest him. Rayhan also faced a barrage of hate speech on social media and had to go into hiding in fear of arrest and rights violation.
Meanwhile, police also called a number of Bangladeshis suspecting their links to Rayhan, which terrified them, some of them told this newspaper.
Rayhan’s work permit has also been revoked.
“I did not lie. I only spoke about the discrimination against migrants. I did not commit a crime. I want the dignity of migrants and my country ensured. I believe all migrants and Bangladesh will stand with me,” Rayhan told The Daily Star in a WhatsApp message shortly before his arrest on Friday.
Meanwhile, rights activists have demanded Rayhan’s release.
Expressing deep concern over the arrest of Rayhan Kabir, 21 civil society organisations, including Brac, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, Manusher Jonno Foundation, and Ain O Salish Kendra, in a joint statement demanded the immediate release and protection of Rayhan Kabir in Malaysia.
“We demand his immediate release and protection,” read the joint statement, adding that Rayhan did not commit any crime.
“The evidence shown in the documentary on Malaysia’s crackdown on immigrants is reprehensible and deeply troubling. There have been similar allegations in the past against Malaysian law enforcement agencies,” it said.
They requested the Bangladesh high commission in Malaysia, foreign and expatriates’ welfare ministry and the international organisations concerned to take necessary action to protect Rayhan’s rights.
While Malaysian officials and national television criticised the report, claiming it was inaccurate, misleading and unfair, Al Jazeera Media Network has strongly rejected allegations made by Malaysian authorities over the documentary.
Malaysian police announced an investigation of Al Jazeera staffers over potential sedition, defamation and violation of the country’s Communications and Multimedia Act.
In a statement, Al Jazeera said it stands by “the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism”, and warned of “serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of the documentary”.