Brits Try To Free Doctor Held Captive In Bangladesh

01/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

LONDON — A British lawyer is trying to help a U.K. resident allegedly being held by relatives in Bangladesh by using a new law that allows British courts to prevent someone from being forced into marriage.

But the woman's father said Monday she is being treated for mental illness.

British lawyer Anne-Marie Hutchinson said she believes Humayra Abedin, a 33-year old Bangladeshi doctor is being held against her will.

The British High Court issued an order Friday under the new Forced Marriage Act, ordering Abedin's relatives in London to show her to a woman's organization or the authorities.

Hutchinson said she was asked to get involved in the case by Sara Hossain, a lawyer in Bangladesh. Abedin trained as a doctor, both in Bangladesh and at Leeds University in the north of England.

Hutchinson said Abedin, who plans to become a family doctor in London, traveled to Bangladesh in August and recently sent an e-mail to a friend saying she needed help.

"She appeared pretty desperate," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the family has ignored the British court order, which can compel someone to reveal the whereabouts of a person believed to be at risk. This is one of the first times the law has been used since it came into effect last month.

Mohammad Joynal Abedin, Humayra Abedin's father, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press from his home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that his daughter was not a captive but was being treated for mental illness in Bangladesh.

"I can swear upon Allah we are not torturing her. She is not being held against her will," Abedin said. "She is our only daughter and we will not harm her."

He said doctors had forbidden anyone to visit his daughter.

The Forced Marriage Act is not directly enforceable in Bangladesh but Hutchinson said the Bangladeshi authorities are cooperating in the case. Hossain said the Bangladesh High Court last week asked Abedin's family to produce her before the court by Dec. 14 to know her condition.

Forced marriage differs from arranged marriage in that either the bride, groom, or both do not consent. In arranged marriages, families suggest suitable candidates but both parties must agree to the wedding.

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Associated Press Writer Farid Hossain in Bangladesh contributed to this report.

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