DHAKA, Bangladesh, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Bangladesh authorities have arrested prominent human rights activist Adilur Rahman Khan on suspicion of spreading false information about the government, Bangladesh News 24 reported.
Dhaka's Metropolitan Court denied Khan bail and ordered him held for five days, giving police the chance to question him further, BDNews24 said.
The Home Ministry also issued a statement confirming the arrest of Khan, a lawyer and a director of the Bangladeshi human rights group Odhikar.
Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch in New York, have been quick to demand his release.
A statement by HRW said the Aug. 10 arrest of Khan -- without warrant at his home by 10 police officers -- appears to be an attempt to silence one of the Bangladeshi government's most vocal critics prior to national elections.
Bangladesh, whose population is about 90 percent Muslim and the rest mostly Hindu, constitutionally must go to the polls in a national election no later than Jan. 24.
"The Awami League government shouldn't respond to its low public approval ratings by making a mockery of its claims to respect the free speech rights of everyone," HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said.
Bangladesh's donors should press the government to release Khan and end the harassment of human rights defenders and other critics of the government, he said.
Khan "has long expressed concern that he would be arrested for political reasons, but said that he wanted to stay in the country to do his work despite the risks."
Khan's arrest concerns a report by Odhikar that examined events surrounding May 5 clashes between police and Islamist protesters across Bangladesh.
In Dhaka, thousands of protesters organized by the group Hefazat-e Islam had gathered to call for stronger Islamic policies, the BBC reported at the time.
Police used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse people. Rioters set fire to shops and vehicles, and had running battles with riot police through the streets late into the night.
The bloody confrontations with protesters left 27 people dead, including two police officers, and dozens injured.
At least five people were reported killed in clashes in the southeastern city of Chittagong and two in the coastal district of Bagerhat.
A report by a Bangladeshi newspaper, the Daily Star, said Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu denied that the arrest of Khan was a violation of human rights.
"He has been arrested against a specific complaint under the existing law of the country," he said.
The government is concerned that Odhikar's June 10 report of the riots and alleged human rights violation spreads false information, Inu said.
"The pictures published on the cover of the report were modified using Photoshop," he said.
Odhikar, by publishing the report with the pictures on their website, broke Information and Communication Technology laws and was an attempt to instigate communal violence and political strife.
Inu said foreign-financed non-governmental organizations are required by law to provide information demanded by the government.
The Daily Star report said Odhikar refused to hand over details of the alleged 61 victims, claiming their safety and that of their families might be at stake.
The secularist government has been at loggerheads with Hefazat-e Islam, a coalition of about a dozen Islamist organizations that want to impose a stricter form of Islam on Bangladesh.
The group's 13 demands include greater segregation of men and women, and it opposes government policy to allow women greater freedom.
The government also rejects Hefazat-e Islam's demand for a stricter law on blasphemy.