Voice for Justice protesting the death of writer Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed in Police Custody in Bangladesh.
Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed, 53, died on Thursday 25 February 2021 in the high-security Kashimpur Jail in Gazipur district, 32km (20 miles) from the capital Dhaka.
Mr. Ahmed was arrested last year under the Government imposed Digital Security Act (DSA). Bangladesh Police charged Mr. Ahmed with spreading “rumours” on social media,
It may be mentioned that denigrating the 'Father of the Nation', Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in any manner is a criminal offence in Bangladesh. One may even land in jail for questioning the absurd figure of “Three Million Dead” in the Liberation War of 1971.
The immediate cause of His arrest was writing a sarcastic title of a cartoon of one Chjowdhury Nafis Arafat, a bank defaulter and a close associate of Prime Minister Hasina.
The cartoonist, Kishore., is still languishing in prison, and subject to torture on a regular basis. It may be mentioned that the authorities turned down Mushtaq Ahmed’s application for bail, six times in a row.
The DSA, passed in 2018, includes a jail sentence of up to 14 years for any propaganda or campaign against the country’s independence war, its founding father, the national anthem or the flag. It also says a person could be jailed for up to 10 years for destroying communal harmony or creating unrest or disorder.
Ahmed’s death triggered protests near Dhaka University on Friday the 26th February, with the demonstrators shouting “We want justice!” and demanding a repeal of the DSA.
They have committed grave injustice with my son,' Ahmed’s father Abdur Razzaque told Al Jazeera. “I am not in a position to say anything further. My only son is dead”, he lamented over the tragic death of his only son.
Ahmed, who used to write under the pen name, Michael Kumir Thakur, was also famous as a crocodile farmer. His book, Crocodile Farmer’s Diary, earned him widespread acclaim.
Brad Adams, Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, said Ahmed died in custody after “being held in pre-trial detention for nine months … for the alleged ‘crime’ of posting criticism of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Facebook”.
'Mushtaq should never have been in detention in the first place,' he said. 'The government should account for why posting satire about the ruling Awami League on Facebook could amount to the equivalent of a death sentence.'
Dhaka-based journalist Saqib Sarkar said being locked up in a 'dirty, squalid condition and away from family is also a form of torture’. 'In Ahmed’s case, this has become very transparent after his death. His wife had a mental breakdown. This is torture,' he told Al Jazeera.
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded the government cancel the DSA and the release of Ahmed’s co-accused, political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who was also arrested last year.
'Mushtaq Ahmed’s death in a Bangladeshi prison, where he never should have been detained in the first place, is a devastating and unconscionable loss,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. Rights group Amnesty International said Ahmed’s death in prison was the “effect of the authority’s cruel practice of prolonging detention of peopl'”.
'We are witnessing the worst form of repression that a law like the Digital Security Act can bring on a person. No one should have to die solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression,' said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty’s South Asia campaigner.
Thirteen OECD Ambassadors and High Commissioners in Dhaka expressed grave concern on the death of Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed . Please see the joint statements by the 13 diplomats as posted in the website of the US Embassy, Bangladesh in the following link :
We in the Voice for Justice in the UK, do hereby demand that 'The Bangladeshi government must allow an independent inquiry into how Mushtaq Ahmed died and move immediately to repeal the Digital Security Act, which it has used repeatedly and unjustly against journalists.'
Dr. Hasanat Husain MBE
Dr. Taj Hashmi (Canada)
Mr. Hasan Mahmud (Canada)
Dr. Shams Chowdhury (USA)
On behalf of Voice for Justice World Forum