Tulip Siddiq denies ‘completely false’ insinuations that she ordered Bangladeshi authorities to intimidate family of barrister Ahmad bin Quasem
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The lawyer of a barrister detained in Bangladesh has asked for an urgent meeting with MP Tulip Siddiq to help guarantee the safety of his young family.
Michael Polak, who represents British trained barrister Ahmad bin Quasem, said Mr Quasem’s young daughters and wife were left “terrified”and have been unable to sleep since armed security forces stormed into their home in Bangladesh on Tuesday.
He fears that the family are now in severe danger in the country where Ms Siddiq’s aunt Sheikh Hasina is Prime Minister and uncle is head of security.
He believes a picture published on Twitter of Ms Siddiq with Sheikh Hasina in London in June days after the general election is proof that she is close to her aunt and could use her influence to intervene.
But Ms Siddiq has said she had no influence over her aunt politically and it would be inappropriate to intefere in Bangladeshi politics as Mr Quasem is not her constituent.
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As reported in the Ham&High, a row break out between Ms Siddiq and a Channel 4 film crew over an interview last Saturday about Mr Quasem, who was abducted from his home in August 2016 in Bangladesh and has since disappeared. His supporters allege he was taken by men linked to her aunt’s Awami League government.
The programme, aired on Channel 4 news on Tuesday night, asked why Ms Siddiq was not using her family connections to secure Mr Quasem’s release.
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Mr Polak claims that after this interview with Ms Siddiq and before the programme had aired, two sets of uniformed police visited the property in Bangladesh where Mr Quasem’s elderly mother, sister, wife and two young children live.
He told the Ham&High: “I believe this was an attempt to intimidate them to ask us not to broadcast the programme, and it almost worked. Officers in plain cothes arrived and started looking around the property. The family contacted me as they were really worried.”
But the programme still went ahead and after it was aired on Tuesday evening the family had another visit, this time from armed police.
Mr Polak read out Mr Quasem’s sister’s account to him of what happened, translated from Bengali.
She said: “It was after evening prayers. There were seven or eight police. Behind them on the stairs were ten to 15 more police officers. They were in uniform and fully armed. They entered the dining room without permission. They did a search of the entire house, including the wash room.
“Then the officer in charge said this: ‘This time we are going and leaving you, but we will make sure if any such police comes next time, we will not be good like this time. You will not get to see our faces like today.”
Mr Polak said “The family are very scared and worried because they know what the police in Bangladesh can do. They have seen what happened to Ahmad.”
“The daughters are about four and six and the eldest has not been able to sleep since she is so worried about those men coming back again.”
He has called for an urgent meeting with the Hampstead MP to discuss Mr Quasem’s case but has had no response.
He said: “If the programme hadnt been aired yet, how did the Bangladeshi authorities know about it?”
Although there is no evidence that Ms Siddiq had anything to do with it, he said: “Tulip’s uncle is the Prime Minister’s security adviser. There is no doubt that any police visit to the property would have been known about by him and quite possibly ordered by him. It wouldn’t have happened without him knowing about it”
But a spokesman for Ms Siddiq told the Ham&High tonight: “The insinuation that Tulip Siddiq or persons acting on her behalf made contact with the Bangladesh authorities between Saturday and Tuesday is categorically false.”
Ms Siddiq said on Wednesday: “It is not my desire to interfere in Bangladeshi politics and nor is it appropriate to do so.”
“I was born in London, went to a Camden school and my focus is in Hampstead and Kilburn and on my consituents. It is no secret that I have relatives in Bangladesh. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh is my aunt. I have never tried to hide it. I am very close to my aunt as a niece would be to her auntie. We never talk about politics. I just share all my family news with her, such as when Azalea took her first step or when I got my degree, We are close when it comes to talking about family. We do not talk about politics,” she said.
“My aunt is 70 years old and has years of experience. She is not going to take any notice of her niece, a backbench MP in Britain. It would be inappropriate for me to make a phone call to her about this. It does not work like this,” she said.