Bangladeshi Author, Detained Over Social Media Posts, Dies in Jail
DHAKA, Bangladesh — A Bangladeshi author who was detained for almost a 12 months over social media posts that have been vital of the nation’s authorities has died in jail, officers and members of the family stated on Friday, elevating alarms in regards to the nation’s crackdown on dissent.
The author, Mushtaq Ahmed, was amongst 11 folks charged early final 12 months over the unfold of social media content material, together with cartoons, that alleged mismanagement and corruption in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s response to the pandemic.
His case was introduced beneath Bangladesh’s Digital Safety Act, a 2018 regulation that offers the federal government wide-ranging powers to look, nice and arrest anybody who violates its imprecise tenets, together with violating “the solidarity, monetary actions, safety, protection, spiritual values or public self-discipline of the nation.”
Critics say it has been used to stifle dissent. The Asian Human Rights Fee stated it had documented the arrest of 138 folks final 12 months — journalists, college students and political activists — for criticizing Ms. Hasina’s authorities.
Mr. Ahmed was held within the high-security Kashimpur jail and was denied bail six occasions.
Rights organizations demanded an investigation into his loss of life and referred to as for the repeal of the Digital Safety Act, which additionally consists of measures to guard towards cybercrimes and assaults.
Mohammad Gias Uddin, the senior superintendent of the jail the place Mr. Ahmed was held, stated the author had misplaced consciousness on Thursday night and was taken to the jail hospital. Jail guards later took him to a bigger medical facility within the close by metropolis Gazipur, however was he was pronounced useless on arrival, Mr. Uddin stated.
Docs on the jail reported that Mr. Ahmed “by no means complained about his well being points,” Mr. Uddin stated of the author, who was 54. “He used to take drugs for gastric and headache.”
Nafeesur Rahman, a cousin of Mr. Ahmed’s who can be a doctor, stated he had been current in the course of the post-mortem.
“I’ve not discovered any harm mark wherever on his physique,” Mr. Rahman stated, including that Mr. Ahmed’s coronary heart was discovered to be enlarged and that his blood strain had been very low when he misplaced consciousness.
The police criticism towards Mr. Ahmed and the ten others accused them of spreading misinformation and rumors in regards to the coronavirus and damaging the federal government’s picture by sowing confusion by way of social media. The costs have been nationalistic in tone, accusing them of “posting rumors towards the Father of the Nation, the struggle of independence.”
In one in every of his final posts on Fb earlier than his pre-dawn arrest final Could by elite forces, Mr. Ahmed in contrast the nation’s well being minister to a cockroach. In one other, he wrote, “When a society laments the lack of an financial system greater than the lack of human life, it doesn’t want a virus, it’s already sick.”
Aliya Iftikhar, the senior Asia researcher on the Committee to Defend Journalists, referred to as his loss of life “a devastating and unconscionable loss.”
Mizanur Rahman, a regulation professor on the College of Dhaka and a former chairman of Bangladesh’s Nationwide Human Rights Fee, stated the Digital Safety Act was getting used to shrink free speech within the nation.
“All of us have to know that criticizing the federal government just isn’t a seditious offense in any respect,” Mr. Rahman stated. “Mushtaq Ahmed was not discovered responsible — he was in jail for 9 months solely based mostly on allegations of criticizing the federal government, and his loss of life in jail is completely unacceptable.”
Bangladesh, one of many world’s most densely populated nations, which additionally has poor well being infrastructure, was all the time going to be weak to the coronavirus. Considerations in regards to the pandemic have been compounded by accusations of deep corruption within the more and more authoritarian authorities of a rustic that has been susceptible to coups and political violence.
Additionally amongst these arrested in Mr. Ahmed’s case is the famend cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, who saved a Fb journal of political cartoons vital of the federal government referred to as “Life within the Time of Corona.”
Mr. Kishore stays in jail regardless of an attraction by a panel of consultants from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The panel stated Mr. Kishore must be launched on humanitarian grounds, simply as the federal government has launched 1000’s of others as a Covid-19 precaution, due to well being circumstances that make him weak to the coronavirus.
An announcement by the Committee to Defend Journalists concerning Mr. Ahmed’s loss of life expressed concern that in Mr. Kishore’s newest court docket listening to, on Tuesday, he had reported to family that he was “subjected to extreme bodily abuse whereas in police custody, sustaining a critical leg harm and ear accidents which have led to infections on account of lack of satisfactory medical care.”
“When my brother Kishore was produced earlier than the court docket on February 23, I used to be current there,” Ahsan Kabir, his brother, stated in a phone interview. “Kishore informed me that he had been tortured between Could 2 and Could 6.”
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