• Monday, Apr 12, 2021
  • Last Update : 10:23 pm

Death the only freedom after 294 days in prison

  • Published at 10:32 pm February 26th, 2021
Mushtaq-Ahmed-CPJ
Writer Mushtaq Ahmed Courtesy: CPJ/Lipa Akhter

Shouldn’t we all take responsibility for his death?

Who was Mushtaq Ahmed? Was he a murder accused? No. Has he plundered millions from public coffer? No. Was he corrupt? No. Was he an extremist plotting a massacre? No. Was he a threat to law and order? No. Has he put the country’s sovereignty at stake? No.

Then who was he? A writer and critical mind who shared his thoughts freely to paint a picture of his surroundings and society. Such intellectual exercises are part of the norm in a civilised, democratic society that respects human rights and the rule of law, but they are not welcome in a country that has the Digital Security Act.

For writer Mushtaq Ahmed, the exercise of his freedom of expression was a serious offence under the black law, for which he was arrested on May 6 last year and put behind bars.

What were the charges against him?

“Anti-government propaganda and the spreading of rumours” were the charges police brought against Mushtaq. He prayed for bail but was repeatedly denied and languished in jail for over nine months. 

He made his final appearance at the court with an appeal for bail on Tuesday, but was denied again. Two days later, he fell ill and ended up dying in Kashimpur Central Jail on the 295th day his imprisonment.

In Bangladesh, bail can be granted to petty criminals, hardcore militants, bank plunderers and wanted criminals. However, securing bail appears more difficult for writers, cartoonists or photographers arrested under the Digital Security Act.

Mushtaq was unable to secure bail. Instead, death has freed him from everything.

Photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol walked out of jail after 290 days in poor physical condition. Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, who is accused in the same case that was filed against Mushtaq, is still imprisoned and his health is suffering.

Who should we blame for the death of Mushtaq? The state, law-enforcement agencies or the rule of law?

Shouldn’t we all take responsibility for his death?

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