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Case against Sk Hasina and Payam Akhavan February 4, 2008


Payam Akhavan came to Bangladesh to plead for Sk Hasina in the cases made against her.

He is an Associate Professor of Law in McGill University in Montréal, Canada and an US attorney with expertise in international law.

But Bangladesh Law did not permit him to stand for Sk Hasina in the court.

He was allowed to be present in the court when the trial was undergoing in the extortion case filed by Azam J Chowdhury

His comments […][…]referring Sk Hasina and state of the law in Bangladesh stirred the political circles in Bangladesh.

Analyst looked at his comments critically as he came as a tourist and made the comments.

The Advisory Council also couldn’t swallow his comments easily and concluded that Payam Akhavan did excesses.


An ordinary citizen



1. xanthis - February 5, 2008

Check Payam Akhavan out here.

2. incidental blogger - March 6, 2008
3. mohib - March 12, 2008

Payam didn’t do excess.

4. bdoza - March 12, 2008

Incidental blogger,

Thanks for your first hand account on Payam Akavan, the prolific human rights lawyer. Xanthis’ link is also very informative.
The reply given by you to the question raised by some ‘why a man of his ideals wanted to stand in favour of Sk Hasina, who is accused of massive corruption’ is acceptable where you said ‘has she no right for fair trial…….’
But one thing is not clear to me ‘Is there any provision in Bangladesh law for a foreign national to pead for an accused in our court.? The CTG didn’t allow him on that ground. A jurist would know better. Is it raciprocally true for other countries?
I also need to know when an International lawyer is allowed to pead in other countries.
Your observations on the caretaker government is also well said and thought provoking but many will differ with you.
Only future will tell who is right.

5. Incidental Blogger - March 18, 2008

(copied in the original post’s comment section for quick reference)

Dear “Ordinary Citizen”

As far as I am aware, Bangladesh Bar Council’s practice rules do not permit a foreign lawyer to “plead” in any local court ‘without permission from the appropriate authority,’ which in this case would be the Bar Council. Having said that, there are couple of points to be considered:

1. If you read Payam’s mandate carefully, you will find in his statement (see the link in my post) that: (a) he is acting as Sheikh Hasina’s “international counsel,” and (b) he acknowledged that her existing legal team is competent enough to handle her corruption case. Legal representation of choice is a fundamental human right and Sheikh Hasina can choose anyone to represent her (arguably from any planet). It is all about reliance, trust and one’s faith in another’s ability to defend or represent properly. Payam is not “Pleading” for Sheikh Hasina in the strict sense, the rest of her legal team is. Basically, “pleading” involves standing before a court and formally submitting motions and arguing before a judge. Payam is/was not doing any of these. It was, however, perfectly within his capacity to be a part of SH’s legal team as “a human rights consultant” or lobbyist, because the team needed someone with his background and expertise in human rights matters. In that respect, even a doctor, an economist, a scientist, or even a linguist can be a part of her legal defense team. Also, you must have noticed that none of the other members in Sheikh Hasina’s team is known for their expertise in international human rights law. So someone like Payam had to fill that gap since none of our home grown human rights defenders were available, ie, they were either afraid to represent her or were playing for the other team.

2. Now, about getting permission from the appropriate body: professional courtesywise, it should have been given to Payam. But under the current political climate, one must really be naive to expect that our professional, legal or administrative bodies are able to deliver decisions independently without fear or pressure.

3. The scope also remains that a Judge, using his “inherent powers” under the law can allow anyone to plead in his court. Similar provisions were examined in other jurisdictions and now there are dozens of precendents on this in both sides of the Atlantic, allowing even non-lawyers to conduct cases. It is obviously not ideal (if you are a defendant in a murder trial, you would obviously want a professional to defend you), but not prohibited either. Anyway, having observed this Caretaker administration for the last 14 months, we probably have reached that point when we can safely say that all these (nitty-grittys) have nothing to do with law but everything to do with power (and its abuse), as I have argued in my post. So let’s be realistic.

4. I heard arguments – what a human rights lawyer is doing in a corruption trial like this in the first place ? I admit, her’s is not a case under international human rights law (strictly speaking). Again, there never was any such trial anywhere in the world depicted as “human rights trial” per se. Human rights norms are something that are raised and argued in trials–that is how it works. You must have noticed that trials famous for their human rights dimensions tend to assume many different shapes or forms: sometimes they come as genocide cases, sometimes as domestic violence cases (even as murder cases when the murderer is a battered woman), sometimes as a civil suit (eg, defamation, libel, privacy etc), sometimes as election disputes. In Sheikh Hasina’s case, the human rights angle emerged out of the corruption allegations against her, for the way her case was handled from day one. For God’s sake, we even have extended the benefits of human rights to a known war criminal like Golam Azam in relation to his citizenship trial ! (A blog has already been written on the point explaining how and when Sheikh Hasina’s trial became a human rights trial). For example’s sake, don’t you find it odd that Sheikh Hasina was not granted bail in her case (and how flawed that case is!). On principle bail-denials apply when the accused is a flight risk. Was it not Sheikh Hasina who actually insisted on coming back to Bangladesh and face allegations head on? Does it look like the profile of a flight-risk accused ? And do please look at the other side. You would see that known war criminals like Mujahid and Nizami (with mass-murder allegations hanging over their heads) are roaming freely in the country and travelling abroad. Don’t you find that infuriating?

Hope this answers your questions.

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