The High Court has upheld the bail granted by a trial court to bdnews24.com’s Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi in a case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The High Court bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Khizir Hayat made the decision on Thursday after the ACC sought to scrap the bail granted to the senior journalist.
The High Court did not respond to an ACC request to seize Khalidi’s passport, but said he would need permission from the court to travel abroad. On Nov 24, the court heard the arguments from both sides over the matter. It then set Dec 1 for its decision.
Yusuf Hossain Humayun, Khalidi’s senior lawyer, asked during the hearing why the bail would be scrapped when his client had not abused it.
“He has appeared in court whenever he has been instructed to. He received bail from the court,” the lawyer said. “He is a British passport holder. He is an eminent journalist and has made multifaceted contributions [to journalism].”
The lawyer also opposed the seizure of Khalidi’s passport saying that there was no indication that his client would not face the trial.
Barrister Mahbub Shafiq, another lawyer for Khalidi, said he had regularly attended the court hearings and had followed all the rules. If the court still decided to seize the passport of such a notable journalist, it would send a negative message to society. The court decided to uphold the bail, but ordered Khalidi to get court permission to travel abroad.
Shafiq then urged the judges to alter the language of the order to remove “court approval” from the wording and add a condition instead that he would “inform the court before leaving the country and report back once he returns”.
“We can arrange it that way,” he said.
ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan, however, opposed it, saying that the matter of seeking the court’s approval for travel abroad should be maintained.
Deputy Attorney General AKM Amin Uddin, acting for the state, called for the passport to be kept in the court’s custody.
The bench eventually decided that Khalidi would require court permission to travel abroad.
Advocate Md Motaz Uddin Mehedi and Advocate Md Shahria Kabir Biplob were also present on behalf of Khalidi at the hearing. They were accompanied by Mohammad Noman Hossain Talukdar.
The ACC started the case against Khalidi in July 2020, accusing him of acquiring wealth from unknown sources, after bdnews24.com announced a Tk 500 million investment by asset management company LR Global in the news publisher in October 2019.
Khalidi, who consistently denied any wrongdoing, said he was 'shocked' and 'surprised' by the charges levelled against him by the ACC while questioning the motive behind the case.
“If you look at the allegations, you'll find that the FIR is riddled with mistakes. There isn't a word of truth in it. This has been done to create confusion among the people and humiliate me," he had said after the High Court granted him anticipatory bail in August 2020.
The ACC then moved the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for an order to block the bail.
In September 2020, the top court dismissed the ACC appeal. “Why are you wasting our time by bringing this appeal to the Appellate Division?” Justice Imman Ali said in a rebuke to lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan who argued for the ACC at the hearing of the petition.
Khalidi sought bail from the trial court in October 2020 after the end of the anticipatory bail granted by the High Court.
Senior Special Judge KM Imrul Kayes granted Khalidi bail at that time. “You rushed to the Appellate Division after the High Court had granted him bail. What’s the use of it?” the judge asked the ACC lawyer at the hearing. Khalidi later secured permanent bail from the court.
The ACC challenged the bail at the High Court in 2021, seeking a revision of the senior special judge’s order.
After hearing the ACC’s plea, the High Court on Dec 8 issued a rule asking Khalidi and the state why the bail should not be cancelled. On Nov 24, the court heard arguments from both sides and set Dec 1 for its decision. Thursday’s decision disposed of that rule.