Lawyers of Bangladeshi Rayhan in the dark over his whereabouts

Md Rayhan Kabir’s lawyers Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna (left) and Selvaraja Chinniah at the immigration department headquarters in Putrajaya today.

PUTRAJAYA: The lawyers of Bangladeshi Md Rayhan Kabir who came under scrutiny by the authorities after featuring in a controversial documentary on Malaysia’s treatment of migrants by news channel Al Jazeera say they are unaware of his location or under which act he is being charged.

Rayhan, who had been tracked by authorities since July 7 in relation to their investigations under the Immigration Act 1959/63, was detained by immigration officers last Friday.

Selvaraja Chinniah and Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna said they had written to immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud at his office requesting a meeting with Rayhan.

“I cannot give much information as I have not had the chance to meet the investigating officer or my client.

“We came today to get permission from the immigration department to visit our client,” Selvaraja said, adding that Khairul’s personal assistant had confirmed receiving their letter.

Rayhan was among those interviewed in the Al Jazeera report titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”, aired on July 3. The documentary claimed that authorities had treated migrants poorly during the movement control order (MCO) period to contain the spread of Covid-19.

This sparked outrage from government leaders and landed the Qatar-based news channel under investigation for various alleged offences including sedition, defamation and the improper use of network facilities.

Al Jazeera, which maintains that the report was balanced, said Rayhan’s arrest for speaking up about experiences faced by migrants was “disturbing”, and that freedom of expression was a fundamental right.

According to a report in Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper, Rayhan said he had only wanted to ensure the dignity of migrants and his country. He also said he believed his view would be shared by both migrants and Bangladeshis.

Selvaraja and Sumitha were hired by Rayhan’s family on July 18 in anticipation of his arrest.

“For now, my clients’ instructions are to ensure their son’s safety and (provide) the necessary assistance,” said Selvaraja.

“As lawyers, we have a duty towards our clients.”