Mushtaq Ahmed. Photo: Lipa Akhter. Source CPJ
The 53-year-old Bangladeshi writer Mushtaq Ahmed died yesterday in prison of unknown causes. Ahmed was arrested in 2020 on charges of spreading rumors and/or false news about covid-19 on social media.
On May 6, 2020, the RAB, Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh, arrested the writer along with cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, Didarul Islam Bhuiyan, an activist of a platform called “Rashtrachinta” and businessman Minhaz Mannan Emon, under the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA).
Many people claim that this law is being used as an excuse to undermine freedom of expression.
Bangladesh, cartoonist arrested for criticizing the government
He is accused of posting anti-government messages on Facebook and, according to some interpretations, of spreading hoaxes about the coronavirus pandemic.
According to EFE news agency, an official at the Kashimpur high security central jail, Gias Uddin, said the writer died at around 8.20 p.m. (14.20 GMT) after he was taken to a hospital in the central city of Gazipur. Ahmed “lost consciousness” early in the morning in jail and at the hospital “was pronounced dead. We did not know he had any kind of disease,” Uddin said.
Cartoonist denounces torture
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) believes Bangladeshi authorities should conduct a prompt, transparent and independent investigation into the writer’s death, unconditionally release political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, and investigate allegations that he was subjected to abuse in prison.
Kishore sent a note to his brother in which he claims to have been subjected to severe physical abuse in prison.
He also claims to suffer a serious leg injury and ear injuries that have led to infections due to lack of proper medical care.
Hundreds of people, according to EFE mostly members of leftist student organizations, demonstrated in Dhaka today. The protests began in the morning on the Dhaka University campus and spread to one of the capital’s main thoroughfares blocking traffic.
“This is murder due to the fascist behavior of the government. We demand a trial for the murder,” said Nasir Uddin Prince, leader of the Student Socialist Front and a participant in the demonstration. Source.
Deteriorating freedoms in Bangladesh
Marie Arena, Belgian MEP for Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and Environment warns of the progressive and worrying destruction of freedoms in Bangladesh, since the last European Parliament resolution adopted in 2018.
The situation has further deteriorated and there has been an increase in cases of mass intimidation of members of the opposition, extrajudicial killings and violations of the freedoms of expression and demonstration.
Arena also recalls that the EU is Bangladesh’s number one trading partner. An asset that should serve as a lever to improve human rights in the country.