Protests continue in Bangladesh after writer’s death in jail

Dhaka, Mar 1 (efe-epa) – Protests continued for the fourth day in Bangladesh on Monday following the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in custody amid calls for a review of the controversial Digital Security Act.

Mushtaq, detained in May and charged under the act for “spreading rumors” on social media, was declared dead at a hospital in the central Gazipur district on Thursday, hours after he fell unconscious at a high-security prison.

Different political, rights and student organizations have been protesting Mushtaq’s death since Friday

Several hundred activists of left-leaning student groups brought out a procession on Monday from the campus of Dhaka University, the main public university of the country, protesting the scribe’s death.

“Our main demand is the scrapping of the Digital Security Act. We also demand that the government release all the prisoners arrested under the act and a proper investigation on the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed and trial,” said Dipak Shil, general secretary of the Bangladesh Student Union, which led the protest.

Activists have especially highlighted the case of cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore – who was detained along with Mushtaq and charged with the same offense – and called for his release.

The protesters marched towards the government secretariat in central Dhaka aiming to reach the country’s home ministry and broke one line of police barricades before being eventually stopped and holding a meeting on the street.

Shil said 7-8 protesters received minor injuries while trying to break the police cordon.

The protest followed a clash between police and the student wing of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Sunday, which, according to the opposition group, left at least 50 people injured.

Police charged some 300 protesters and arrested 13 people later on the day.

“They were arrested for attacking police, damaging state properties and obstructing police in their duty,” Sajjadur Rahman, the deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told EFE.

Mushtaq’s death and the subsequent protests have put the spotlight back on the debate surrounding the DSA, enacted in 2018.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet 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.

“There needs to be an overhaul of the Digital Security Act under which Ahmed was charged – and all those detained under this Act for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and opinion must be released,” Bachelet said in a statement.

The act 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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