By Shumu Haque
Four Bangladeshi bloggers have been charged by the authorities for hurting religious sentiments via social media, reported a local daily on Thursday.
Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, 24, Russel Parvez, 36, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, 42; and Asif Mohiuddin, 28 were detained by the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police earlier this month and they remained in custody until Wednesday under the Special Powers Act.
“ It is quite unfortunate, that after 42 years of our independence, someone would be arrested while trying to exercise their freedom of speech.” – Ashraful Hasan, member, Projonmo Canada.
“I don’t think the proof against some of these bloggers are satisfactory enough to charge them, in fact a lot of their blogs did not appear to be hurtful by their readers, Subrata Adhikari Shubho was always quite vocal about equally respecting all the religions,” said Ashraful Hasan , member of Projonmo Canada, an organization of young Bangladeshi-Canadians who work to create awareness on contemporary social and political issues that are relevant to the Bangladeshi-Canadians.
“This whole thing may have started with the bloggers, but eventually it may lead to an overall suppression of our freedom of speech,” he said.
“ It is quite unfortunate, that after 42 years of our independence, someone would be arrested while trying to exercise their freedom of speech,” Hasan told Humber News on Thursday.
The fact, that Adhikari’s Facebook account was being used to like controversial websites that could incriminate him in this case while he is still in jail without any Internet privileges, seems quite suspicious, Hasan said.
Another blogger Mohiuddin’s Facebook account has also been deactivated while he remains in prison.
“If a case is to be filed against these bloggers, why not charge publications such as “Amar Desh”, who have done much worse by instigating communal riots in our country,” said Supriti Dhar, a journalist and social activist told Humber News, ”and yet, while in custody, the editor of “Amar Desh” has been hospitalized and given access to treatment, while one of the bloggers, Asif was denied the same right over and over.”
Four Islamists attacked Asif Mohiuddin on Jan. 15.
He was stabbed eight times and suffered life-threatening injuries from which he had not yet recovered when he was arrested on April 3.
The authority has yet to bring satisfactory proofs against the bloggers, said Dhar.
“This bloggers have not written anything to threaten our national stability according to my knowledge, I wonder why, then, the government is so scared of these four young men, and is not even giving them bail,” she said.
“I have an issue with how these bloggers have been detained for two weeks and have been psychologically tortured, without any charges being filed against them,” said Razib Mir, assistant professor of Mass Communication and Journalism at Jagannath University and a social activist from Bangladesh.
“Legal process is quite another thing, but the way these bloggers have ben picked up and slandered in media before the entire world, even before any charges were filed, is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
Currently, Bangladesh government is thinking of bringing forth changes to this law that will ensure harsher punishments for blasphemy charges.
“This is not a fundamentalist country, Bangladeshi people are religious but not fanatics.” – Razib Mir, assistant professor of Mass Communication and Journalism at Jagannath University
According to a media report from earlier this month, the government was thinking of introducing death penalty on such cases.
Mir said that any attempt by the government to bring forth a more radical, religiously fundamental law by the government will not be tolerated by the people of Bangladesh, who still believe in the secular spirit of the liberation war.
“This is not a fundamentalist country, Bangladeshi people are religious but not fanatics,” Mir said.
Charges against the bloggers were brought under the Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006. Anyone convicted under the law faces 14 years in prison or a fine of Bangladeshi Tk one crore (equivalent to CDN $ 131,144), reported “The Daily Star”, a Bangladeshi daily.