Bangladesh releases jailed cartoonist after week-long protests

Dhaka, Mar 4 (efe-epa).- Bangladeshi cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, detained under the controversial digital security act, was released on Thursday after week-long protests following the custodial death of a writer arrested under the same law.

After spending nearly 10 months in prison, Kishore is now “free and resting at home,” his brother Ahsan Kabir confirmed to EFE.

Kishore was released provisionally around noon on Thursday after the documents for his bail were furnished, Abdul Jalil – the head of central Kashimpur prison – told EFE.

The artist was arrested on May 6, 2020 along with writer Mushtaq Ahmed, who was declared dead on Feb. 25 in a hospital after losing consciousness in a high-security prison.

Both were arrested under the DSA, approved in 2018 to criminalize “negative propaganda” against national symbols such as the Liberation War or the assassinated first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh and the father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Kishore was granted bail on Wednesday by the Bangladesh Supreme Court, with similar applications having been denied six times in the past, after a week of massive protests in the country.

Ahmed’s death had 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, apart from calling for the revocation of DSA and the release of all prisoners arrested under the law.

Meanwhile protests continued in Dhaka on Thursday for the seventh consecutive day, with a demonstration by the youth wing of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party in front of the National Press Club, in the center of the city.

“Mushtaq was not a death row convict, but he had to die in jail. The government thinks those who criticize it are all criminal,” BNP spokesperson Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said in a statement after the rally.

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

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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