The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bangladesh releases foreign journalists

Dhaka, Dec. 11 (Reuters): Bangladesh today freed two journalists from Britain’s Channel 4 television station who were detained late last month in connection with what authorities called anti-national activities.

Zaiba Malik, a 35-year-old Briton, and Italian Bruno Sorrentino, 40, would be boarding a flight for London later, officials said.

They were freed after they accepted they had entered the country under false pretences, the officials said. Reporters saw the duo at a news conference held at the foreign ministry but were not permitted to ask them questions. The two were smiling and looked relaxed.

“The government of Bangladesh, in an extraordinary gesture, today agreed to deport the two Channel 4 journalists,” state minister for foreign affairs Reaz Rahman told the news conference. Malik and Sorrentino were detained on November 25 by immigration officials at the country’s western border with India and handed over to police. They were later moved to a Dhaka jail and a court refused them bail.

Haris Chowdhury, political secretary to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, said the two were freed after they acknowledged “they had entered the country on false professional identities.”

Immigration officials earlier said Malik identified herself as a teacher and Sorrentino as an architect in their passports.

They were accused of seeking to portray the country as a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism. The two journalists were working on a documentary on terrorism for Channel 4 and may be charged with “anti-Bangladesh activities,” officials earlier said.

Bangladeshi freelance journalist Saleem Samad and Priscilla Raj, an interpreter, who worked with the Channel 4 duo are still in custody. “Investigations against them were yet to be completed,” Rahman said.

Bangladesh has denied reports published in India that it has become a haven for members of the al Qaida network of Osama bin Laden, prime suspects in the September 11 bomb attacks on the US.

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