A NORTH university has joined an international campaign calling for a professor who has worked with its students for many years to be freed from a Bangladeshi jail.

The University of Sunderland has called for the release of its longstanding visiting professor of photography Shahidul Alam, who has been in police custody for nine weeks.

The internationally-renowned Bangladeshi photographer, photojournalist and activist has been held since August 5.

He was arrested after speaking about the government during an interview with Al Jazeera about the then-ongoing student protests in Dhaka.

Staff and students from the University of Sunderland, along with 19 other UK universities, exhibition spaces and colleges, will display photographs taken by Shahidul in a bid to raise awareness of his imprisonment.

The campaign uses the hashtag #freeshahidulalam on social media.

Arabella Plouviez, professor of photography and dean of the faculty of arts and creative industries at the University of Sunderland, said: “Shahidul has been a respected colleague and friend since we met in Bangladesh in 1989.

"I have tremendous respect for his use of photography as a peaceful,yet powerful, tool for emancipation and to highlight social injustice.

“Shahidul is calm, driven and unfailingly just– we are concerned for his safety and join his family and many friends in demanding his release from injustice.”

International support for the campaign has included that of 12 Nobel Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hollywood actress and activist Sharon Stone, filmmaker Steve McQueen, artist Antony Gormley and several British MPs.

They have called for justice and transparency about Shahidul’s alleged crimes.

The 63-year-old's photographic career started in the UK 40 years ago and focuses on exposing abuses of power, including images of the genocide of the 1971 Bangladeshi war of liberation.

He was taken from his home in the Dhanmondi neighbourhood of Dhaka by local police and arrested for damaging 'the image of the nation'.

He is now being held under the controversial section 57 of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, which carries up to 14 years in prison, and has been used in more than 20 cases recently involving journalists.

Concerns about its misuse to gag free speech have been raised globally.

In court, the photographer claimed he had been tortured in custody– an allegation the police have denied.

After a week on remand, he was denied bail and sent to Dhaka Central Jail on August 13 where he remains pending the completion of the police investigation.

His niece Sofia Karim, who lives in the UK, hopes the exhibitions of his work will reveal the plight of those imprisoned or missing in his beloved Bangladesh– in the past and alongside him now– and help secure his release.

She said: “Since Shahidul’s imprisonment, we cannot communicate with him directly. One message he did receive was that exhibitions of his work were spontaneously springing up across the world. Through the three layers of prison bars, amidst the din, he smiled and said, ‘a big thank you’.

“Shahidul started his photographic career in the UK. Over 40 years later, this mass exhibition celebrating his work means the UK joins other countries in deploying his art in the campaign for his release. Yet Shahidul would be most pleased if the exhibitions revealed the plight of those who have been imprisoned, tortured, abused or disappeared in his beloved Bangladesh – in the past and alongside him now, including the students he supported.

“Shahidul’s life has been devoted to witnessing the complex history of his beloved country, paying homage to its truth of beauty and pain. These mass exhibitions document the current episode of Bangladesh’s history and tell the story on behalf of the witness who remains behind bars.

“After his torture, Shahidul was briefly paraded in public. Unable to walk, he waved to the photographers and said, ‘The camera should be in my hand’. Denied his lens, we must tell the story on his behalf to the best of our ability.”

For information or to support Shahidul email Bangladeshi authorities via Amnesty International at amnesty.org.uk/actions/free-shahidul-alam