University of Toronto student Tahmid Hasib Khan arrested after deadly Bangladesh attack

University of Toronto student Tahmid Hasib Khan’s family accused Bangladesh police of lying after he was arrested along with one other man in connection with a deadly café attack that left 20 dead.

Police seek court permission to question 22-year-old Khan and co-accused British national for 10 days

Canadian permanent resident Tahmid Hasib Khan, centre right, and British national Hasnat Karim, centre left, were arrested on Thursday in connection with a July 1 attack on a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, police there said. (Associated Press)

University of Toronto student Tahmid Hasib Khan's family accused Bangladesh police of lying after he was arrested along with one other man in connection with a deadly café attack that left 20 dead.

Khan, 22, and British national Hasnat Karim, 47, were arrested in different areas of the capital of Dhaka, and police were seeking court permission to question them for 10 days, said Masudur Rahman, a Dhaka police spokesman.

Khan's friends and family issued a statement Thursday blasting the police announcement as a "blatant lie." They allege Khan has been in custody since the attack and has not had access to a lawyer or anyone else.

Bystanders and police help an injured person away from the Holey Artisan Bakery following the deadly July 1 attack. Khan and the other man arrested after the attack were known to have been inside the restaurant. (Associated Press)
Five armed gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant on the night of July 1, killing 20 people and holding others inside hostage. Security forces stormed the restaurant on July 2, killing the gunmen and rescuing the remaining 13 hostages. Those killed were nine Italians, seven Japanese, three Bangladeshis and one Indian.

Khan and Karim were known to have been inside the restaurant, but Bangladeshi authorities and police denied having them in custody immediately after the attack. Their families and New York-based Human Rights Watch had appealed for news about them, and said the authorities were holding the men.

Khan's family asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on July 11 to intervene in the case as Khan is a permanent resident of Canada. Friends and family members say they don't know why Khan was being held, but insisted he had done nothing wrong.

On Facebook, his supporters point out that he has not been formally charged and no evidence has been brought against him. 

Accused went to Dhaka to visit family

A Facebook page called Free Hamid has been set up to put pressure on the Bangladesh government to free Hasib Thamid Khan, 22. (Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed)
His brother, Talha Khan, a Canadian citizen, sent a letter through a lawyer to Trudeau's office, seeking Ottawa's help.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said the government had been in touch with Bangladeshi authorities regarding the status of a Canadian permanent resident and were monitoring the situation closely.

"There are limits to what any country can do for individuals who are not citizens of that country," Michael O'Shaughnessy said. "Due to privacy considerations, further details cannot be released."

Khan, an undergraduate student studying global health at U of T, had travelled to Dhaka to visit family, with plans to go on to Nepal to begin an internship last month.

Two of Khan's friends, Josh Grondin and Rusaro Nyinawumwami, published a letter in the U of T's Varsity student newspaper earlier this week painting him as a typical student who plays guitar, sings and plays soccer.

Khan had been in the area visiting his mother and later went to the café for some ice cream, the letter says.

During the attack, the five gunmen forced Khan to hold a weapon against his will, to act as a decoy, the letter says. Khan later helped save multiple lives, the letter says, by persuading the attackers to release several people before security forces moved in.

Video shows 1 man talking with attackers

Karim was in the restaurant with his wife and two daughters to celebrate the birthday of their daughter, the family said.

But a South Korean man from a nearby apartment had shot a video of the scene in the restaurant during which Karim was seen talking to the attackers.

Police also said there were photographs showing Karim smoking on the rooftop of the building with two of the attackers standing behind him.

"We are taking them to a court and we have already sought 10 days police custody for further questioning," Rahman said soon after the arrests.

Karim had lived in the U.K. for nearly 20 years and returned to Bangladesh a few years ago, when he began teaching in a private university in Dhaka. Later, he was under investigation for his alleged involvement with a banned Islamic group, Hizbut Tahrir.

He left the university in 2012 and became a businessman. One of the attackers has been identified as his former student. 

Bangladesh police have said they are investigating whether the attackers had links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The claim was rejected by Bangladesh's government, which said ISIS has no presence in the country and instead blamed a local radical group, Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh.

With files from CBC News