13 June 2024

Concerns over series arrests in Bangladesh

File photo - Photo Desk

Three hundred thirteen members of different professionals including teachers, students, rights activists, political workers, journalists and cultural personalities have demanded for immediate release of arrested critics of government, who criticized government dealing with coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement issued on May 6, they expressed concerns over the arrest and marked it as harsh interference to freedom of expression by the government.

Rapid Action Battalion arrested cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, writer Mushtaq Ahmed, and two others -- Didarul Islam Bhuiyan, an activist of a platform called 'Rashtrachinta', and Minhaz Mannan Emon, a businessman -- under the Digital Security Act, allegedly for making anti-government posts on Facebook, from the capital yesterday.

A team of Rab-3 handed Kishore and Mushtaq over to Ramna Police Station, Monirul Islam, officer-in-charge of the police station told The Daily Star this morning. Rab-3 also confirmed the matter.

Jamshedul Islam, investigation officer of the case, said the four were arrested from the capital's Kakrail and Lalmatia areas on charge of posting anti-government content on Facebook.

Later today, Rapid Action Battalion handed over Didarul Islam Bhuiyan and Minhaz Mannan Emon to Ramna Police Station in the evening, Jamshedul Alam, also a sub-inspector of the station, confirmed to The Daily Star.

A total 11 persons were accused in the case filed under the Digital Security Act.

Besides the four arrested, the seven others made accused in the case are: journalists Tasnim Khalil and Shahed Alam, Saer Zulkarnain, Ashiq Imran, Phillipp Schuhmacher, Shapan Wahid, and Asif Mohiuddin.

According to the case statement, a Facebook page named "I am Bangladeshi" is "trying to circulate propaganda and create confusion".

They were disseminating various misinformation, including rumours, through social media, Rab said, mentioning that the page is "creating confusion, instability and chaos among people".

According to Rab, Saer Zulkarnain, Kishore, Ashiq Imran, Phillipp Schuhmacher, Shapan Wahid and Mushtaq are the five admins who have been running the page.

Kishore was picked up from Kakrail area, while Mushtaq was picked up from his Lalmatia home yesterday, the police officer said adding that they will be produced before court today.

Kishore, a political cartoonist, posted several cartoons and posters on his Facebook account "Ami Kishore", criticising the government over the coronavirus situation. Mushtaq shared some of Kishore's cartoons on his Facebook profile.

Lipa Akhter, Mushtaq's wife, told The Daily Star, "Around five large vehicles with Rab personnel showed up at our residence in Lalmatia in the early hours of Monday, around 1:44 am. They said that they are from Rab-3. They took away Mushtaq around 3:00am and since then we had no idea where he was, or where he was being taken.

"Around 3:30am last night, two days after he was picked up, I received a call from Ramna Police Station saying that my husband is with them and that I was to come over to the police station and give him food," she added.

Mushtaq, who writes under the pen name "Michel Kumir Thakur", was critical of the "poor management in tackling the Covid-19 situation and the government" on social media.

A crocodile farmer and businessman, Mushtaq wrote a book titled "Kumir Chasher Diary" which was published in November 2018 and was working on another book.

Earlier, Didarul Bhuiyan was supposedly picked up from his house in Dhaka's North Badda yesterday evening.

A family source said some people came in two black microbuses before iftar. They were in plainclothes, but introduced themselves as Rab-3 members and said Didarul was being taken for interrogation.

Didarul is an IT specialist and owner of "ABAC Technologies", an outsourcing IT firm, located on the fifth floor of the same building. He wrote some critical posts on the state's decision to deal with coronavirus, controversy over masks and the distribution of funds and relief.

Contacted last night, Lt Col Md Sarwar-Bin-Quasem, director (Legal and Media) of Rab, told The Daily Star that an operation was underway and they would inform media after its completion.

He, however, did not disclose details.

At a press conference held live from Rashtrochinta office premises this morning, the organisation's member and a lawyer at the Supreme Court, Hasnat Qaiyyum, said, "We are requesting that Didarul be handed over to the police if there is any allegation against him. If there are no allegations, he should be released."

Didarul's family was present at the press conference.

"RAB handed over Didarul and Minhaz to police before Iftar this evening," he said.

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