Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, writer Mushtaq Ahmed, and two others have been arrested from Dhaka under the Digital Security Act in Bangladesh , charged with posting anti-government messages on Facebook.
The two others picked up with Kishore and Mushtaq were Didarul Islam Bhuiyan, an activist of a platform called ‘Rashtrachinta’, and Minhaz Mannan Emon, a businessman .
A team of Rab-3 handed Kishore and Mushtaq over to Ramna Police Station, Monirul Islam, officer-in-charge of the police station told Easternlink.
Jamshedul Islam, investigation officer of the case, said the four were arrested from the capital’s Kakrail and Lalmatia areas on charge of posting ‘inflamatory anti-government content’ on Facebook.
After effecting the arrests , Rapid Action Battalion handed over Didarul Islam Bhuiyan and Minhaz Mannan Emon to Ramna Police Station in the evening, SI Jamshedul Alam told Easternlink.
Eleven persons in all have been booked under the Digital Security Act for anti-government posts, soi more arrests could be expected in next few days.
Apart from the four arrested, the seven others accused in the case are journalists Tasnim Khalil and Shahed Alam, Saer Zulkarnain, Ashiq Imran, Phillipp Schuhmacher, Shapan Wahid, and Asif Mohiuddin.
Asif , a blogger targetted by Islamist radicals , was charged for ‘ hurting religious sentiments’ with his social media activity during the Shahbagh movement.
It was not clear whether Phillipp is a foreigner or a Bangladesh national posting under a fake name.
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, A RAB official told Easternlink , mentioning that the page is “creating confusion, instability and chaos among people”.The statement further said at least five journalists were arrested this month under the Digital Security Act, and the dignitaries are extremely concerned and enraged seeing such violation of human rights
RAB spokesman Lt Col Sarwar Bin Kashem told Easternlink that their operation to arrest others accused in the case was going on .
Sarwar said RAB started screening some accounts and discovered a page — ‘I am Bangladeshi ‘ — run by Facebook IDs—Saer Zulkarnain, Ami Kishore (in Bangla), Ashiq Imran, Philipp Schumacher, Swapan Jahid and Mustaque Ahmed.
The Facebook page posted false information and rumours against Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the War of Liberation, and on the Covid-19 pandemic, knowing full well that such information and rumours were false and intended to create confusion.
In the statement, RAB referred to some hyperlinks of the Facebook posts to substantiate its claim.
After their arrest, Kishore and Mushtaq were produced before a court in Dhaka on Wednesday , which sent them to jail when their bail petition fell through. The two other arrestees will be taken to court on Thursday.
Cartoonist Kishore had been posting various critical cartoon-posters on the role of the government amid the ongoing coronavirus situation in the country on his “Ami Kishore” Facebook page. Mushtaq was writing on critical issues on Facebook through multiple IDs, including the page “Michael Kumir Tagore,” police have said.
Didar Bhuiyan’s wife Dilshan Ara arranged a press conference on Wednesday noon, saying that some men in plain clothes had picked up her husband on Tuesday evening.
She asserted that her husband was not involved in any crimes which could warrant his arrest. She said the family got worried as state forces, for many hours, declined to acknowledge the fact that they had picked up Didar, keeping the family in the dark about his whereabouts.
Earlier, Didar’s younger brother Zahirul Bhuiyan Rony told to mediapersons hat the men in plain clothes also took CCTV footage of Didar’s office building at the time his brother was picked up from his E-commerce business establishment in Badda, near to Gulshan.
Later his wife filed a general diary (GD) with Badda police station.Badda police station Officer-In-Charge (OC) Parvez Islam told media at the time that the police were trying to find Didar’s whereabouts.
On Wednesday evening, SM Shamim, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner (Ramna Zone), finally confirmed that a team of RAB had handed over Didar to them.
Didar is involved with numerous charitable activities of Rashtrochinta, an advocacy platform for social reform. He also offers various short-term training to volunteers who were currently helping people in distress due to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, according to family members.
In another development, Lipi Akhter, wife of writer and Bangladesh’s first commercial crocodile farm owner Mushtaq Ahmed, told this newspaper that her husband was picked up at around 2am on Monday.
On Wednesday after mudnight, around 3 am it is the Sehri time of Ramadan maa, she got a call asking her to go to Ramna Police station. Upon reaching there in the morning, she learnt that her husband was in police custody, she added.
She also said that the law enforcers just read out to her the FIR where it was only mentioned that those named in it were allegedly involved in spreading rumors. She was not provided with a copy, where some other names like Didar and journalist Shahed Alam were written.
Mushtaq’s friends said he wrote under the pen name Michel Kumir Thakur and was critical on social media.
He wrote a book titled ‘Kumir Chasher Diary’ (A diary of Crocdile) , which was published in November 2018, and had been working on another book.
Barguna Sadar police station OC Abir Md Hossain said a woman named Lamia filed a case against seven people on Wednesday.
Of them, Sumon, who is also a correspondent of Bangla Tribune, and two others were arrested, the OC added.
The arrestees will be produced before the court in the morning on Thursday, the OC further said.
The others accused in the case are Jamal Mir, Tingku, Asad Sobuj, Rabbi, Sagir Hossain and Rubel, all journalists of online news portal Banglanews24.com. Two among them are in police custody.
Lamia accused the journalists of defaming her and her mother through a Youtube channel, according to the case. A joint statement signed by 311 dignitaries was issued on Wednesday evening
More than 300 dignitaries in Bangladesh have issued a joint statement demanding release of the individuals – including a writer, a cartoonist and a social reform activist – who have been arrested under the Digital Security Act (DSA).
A total of 311 intellectuals , including Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Dr Serajul Islam Choudhury, Transparency Internayional Bangladesh Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Jahangirnagar University economics professor Anu Muhammad, photojournalist Shahidul Alam, and Badiul Alam Majumdar Signed the statement issued on Wednesday.
“We learnt from the media that Ahmed Kabir Kishore [cartoonist], Mushtaq Ahmed [writer] and Didar Bhuiyan [organizer, Rashtrochinta] were picked up allegedly by RAB officials on May 4 and May 5. They also took away Didar’s mobile phone, laptop, computers and other things,” the statement says.They urged the government to release the activists who have been arrested for expressing their opinion on social media.
The statement further said at least five journalists were arrested this month under the Digital Security Act, and the dignitaries are extremely concerned and enraged seeing such violation of human rights.
Meanwhile, the National Committee against Fascism and Imperialism issued a statement on Wednesday, demanding that the government release those arrested under the DSA.
In the statement, the committee President Prof Akmal Hossain and General Secretary Hasibur Rahman said arresting Ahmed Kabir Kishore, Mustaq Ahmed and Didarul Bhuiyan was a direct blow to freedom of speech.
They also condemned the arrest of journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol, who had gone missing on March 10 and appeared blindfolded and bound near the Bangladesh-India border in Benapole, Jessore on May 2, on charge of illegally entering the country.