Crime & Justice

Bangladesh court grants bail to detained cartoonist amid protests

Dhaka, Mar 3 (efe-epa).- The Supreme Court of Bangladesh on Wednesday granted bail to a cartoonist nearly 10 months after his pre-trial detention amid continuing protests over his release and a contentious law under which he was arrested.

Ahmed Kabir Kishore was arrested on May 6, 2020, along with writer Mushtaq Ahmed, and was charged under the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA) for allegedly “spreading rumors” on social media.

Kishore “was granted bail for six months by the court. We expect him to be released soon as there is no other case pending against him,” his lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua told EFE.

These two had previously been denied bail six times, stressed Barua.

Mushtaq was declared dead at a hospital in the central Gazipur district on Feb. 25, hours after he fell unconscious at a high-security prison where he was lodged.

The incident sparked strong protests as different human rights, political, and student organizations took to the streets demanding a credible inquiry into his death and a trial.

The protesters also demanded the scrapping of DSA and the release of all prisoners detained under the act.

The protest in Dhaka entered its sixth day on Wednesday as demonstrators formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club in the central part of the capital.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged the Bangladesh government to ensure a “prompt, transparent and independent” investigation into the custodial death of the writer and review the DSA.

“Various UN Human Rights bodies have long raised concerns about the ill-defined, overly broad provisions of the Digital Security Act that have been used to punish criticism of the Government,” Bachelet had said in a statement on Monday.

“Bangladesh urgently needs to suspend the application of the Digital Security Act and conduct a review of its provisions to bring them in line with the requirements of international human rights law,” she said.

Bangladesh law minister Anisul Huq told local media on Tuesday that the government was considering framing rules to stop the arrest and framing of charges under the DSA without an inquiry into the allegations.

The DSA was approved in the Bangladesh Parliament on Sep. 19, 2018, and came into effect just three months before a general election in which the ruling Awami League and its allies held onto power for a third consecutive term.

The law, severely criticized by press guilds and rights groups since its inception, has also been used in cases of alleged blasphemy online and linked with enforced disappearances carried out by authorities.

Nonprofit Amnesty International has said that more than 1,000 cases have been filed for various allegations under this act since it was implemented. EFE-EPA


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