Dhaka, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Several hundred students and political activists on Friday held demonstrations in Dhaka, protesting against the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in custody after being held in pre-trial detention for nine months.
Mushtaq was declared dead at a hospital in central Gazipur district on Thursday, hours after he fell unconscious at a high-security jail.
Protests began around 10 am on the Dhaka University campus before the demonstrators, mostly the members of Left-leaning student organizations, blocked the busy Shahbagh intersection.
The protesters withdrew their blockade after nearly two hours and announced a fresh agitation program for Mar.5.
“This is a murder due to the fascist behavior of the government. We demand a trial for the killing,” Nasir Uddin Prince, who is also a leader of Socialist Students’ Front (Marxist), told EFE.
“At the same time, we demand the release of all detained under Digital Security Act, including cartoonist (Ahmed Kabir) Kishore. We also demand the repeal of the act,” he said.
Another group of students, led by prominent student leader Nurul Haque Nur, held a funeral prayer in absentia near Shahbagh.
Mushtaq was arrested on May 6, 2020, along with cartoonist Kishore.
The duo was later charged under DSA for spreading rumors on social media and tarnishing the image of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and hurting the spirit of the liberation war.
Both of them were denied bail several times.
Mushtaq made his fame as a crocodile farmer before becoming a writer with his book “Crocodile Farmer’s Diary.”
International rights group Human Rights Watch said Mushtaq and cartoonist Kishore, and several others were arrested for criticizing the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and demanded a credible investigation into his death.
“The authorities now have the responsibility to open a transparent and independent investigation into the circumstances of Mushtaq Ahmed’s death,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW, told EFE.
“The devastating development should lead the Awami League-led government to reverse its intolerance of peaceful criticism, repeal the DSA that is being routinely abused, release and drop charges against all those held in custody simply for criticizing the government or Awami League leaders,” she said.
Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner Saad Hammadi said Mushtaq’s death in prison was because of the authority’s cruel practice of prolonging the detention of people,” he told EFE.
“We are witnessing the worst form of repression that a law like the Digital Security Act can bring on a person. No one should have to die solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression,” Hammadi said.
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.
Amnesty said more than 1,000 cases have been filed for various allegations under this act since it was implemented. EFE-EPA