DHAKA, Bangladesh — A Bangladeshi author who was detained for practically a 12 months over social media posts that had been crucial of the nation’s authorities has died in jail, officers and members of the family stated on Friday, elevating alarms in regards to the nation’s crackdown on dissent.
The author, Mushtaq Ahmed, was amongst 11 folks charged early final 12 months over the unfold of social media content material, together with cartoons, that alleged mismanagement and corruption in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s response to the pandemic.
His case was introduced below Bangladesh’s Digital Safety Act, a 2018 legislation that offers the federal government wide-ranging powers to go looking, fantastic and arrest anybody who violates its imprecise tenets, together with violating “the solidarity, monetary actions, safety, protection, non secular values or public self-discipline of the nation.”
Critics say it has been used to stifle dissent. The Asian Human Rights Fee stated it had documented the arrest of 138 people final 12 months — journalists, college students and political activists — for criticizing Ms. Hasina’s authorities.
Mr. Ahmed was held within the high-security Kashimpur jail and was denied bail six instances.
Rights organizations demanded an investigation into his demise and known as for the repeal of the Digital Safety Act, which additionally contains measures to guard in opposition to cybercrimes and assaults.
Mohammad Gias Uddin, the senior superintendent of the jail the place Mr. Ahmed was held, stated the author had misplaced consciousness on Thursday night and was taken to the jail hospital. Jail guards later took him to a bigger medical facility within the close by metropolis Gazipur, however was he was pronounced useless on arrival, Mr. Uddin stated.
Docs on the jail reported that Mr. Ahmed “by no means complained about his well being points,” Mr. Uddin stated of the author, who was 54. “He used to take capsules for gastric and headache.”
Nafeesur Rahman, a cousin of Mr. Ahmed’s who can also be a doctor, stated he had been current throughout the post-mortem.
“I’ve not discovered any damage mark wherever on his physique,” Mr. Rahman stated, including that Mr. Ahmed’s coronary heart was discovered to be enlarged and that his blood strain had been very low when he misplaced consciousness.
The police grievance in opposition to Mr. Ahmed and the ten others accused them of spreading misinformation and rumors in regards to the coronavirus and damaging the federal government’s picture by sowing confusion by social media. The costs had been nationalistic in tone, accusing them of “posting rumors in opposition to the Father of the Nation, the battle of independence.”
In one among his final posts on Fb earlier than his pre-dawn arrest final Could by elite forces, Mr. Ahmed in contrast the nation’s well being minister to a cockroach. In one other, he wrote, “When a society laments the lack of an financial system greater than the lack of human life, it doesn’t want a virus, it’s already sick.”
Aliya Iftikhar, the senior Asia researcher on the Committee to Shield Journalists, known as his demise “a devastating and unconscionable loss.”
Mizanur Rahman, a legislation professor on the College of Dhaka and a former chairman of Bangladesh’s Nationwide Human Rights Fee, stated the Digital Safety Act was getting used to shrink free speech within the nation.
“All of us have to grasp that criticizing the federal government is just not a seditious offense in any respect,” Mr. Rahman stated. “Mushtaq Ahmed was not discovered responsible — he was in jail for 9 months solely primarily based on allegations of criticizing the federal government, and his demise in jail is completely unacceptable.”
Bangladesh, one of many world’s most densely populated international locations, which additionally has poor well being infrastructure, was all the time going to be weak to the coronavirus. Considerations in regards to the pandemic had been compounded by accusations of deep corruption within the more and more authoritarian authorities of a rustic that has been liable to coups and political violence.
Additionally amongst these arrested in Mr. Ahmed’s case is the famend cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, who stored a Fb journal of political cartoons crucial of the federal government known as “Life within the Time of Corona.”
Mr. Kishore stays in jail regardless of an enchantment by a panel of specialists from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The panel stated Mr. Kishore ought to be launched on humanitarian grounds, simply as the federal government has launched hundreds of others as a Covid-19 precaution, due to well being situations that make him weak to the coronavirus.
An announcement by the Committee to Shield Journalists relating to Mr. Ahmed’s demise expressed concern that in Mr. Kishore’s newest courtroom listening to, on Tuesday, he had reported to relatives that he was “subjected to extreme bodily abuse whereas in police custody, sustaining a severe leg damage and ear accidents which have led to infections attributable to lack of enough medical care.”
“When my brother Kishore was produced earlier than the courtroom on February 23, I used to be current there,” Ahsan Kabir, his brother, stated in a phone interview. “Kishore advised me that he had been tortured between Could 2 and Could 6.”