A group of 25 eminent personalities from the civil society has signed a petition, urging the concerned authorities to immediately withdraw the case filed against Dhaka University teacher Prof Asif Nazrul under the section 57 of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act.
In a statement, the civil members expressed grave concern over the recent series of misuses of the Act against the freedom of expression – a base of basic democracy.
The statement reads: “We strongly condemn the recent defamation charges brought against Prof Asif Nazrul under section 57 of ICT Act and sections 501 and 502 of the Penal Code.”
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The statement pointed out that the case has been lodged by a relative of a minister, who had posed a similar threat during a television talk show on November 20 this year.
Prof Asif Nazrul has frequently been claiming that the case was filed over a Facebook post from a fake account using his name and details.
The statement further read: “We are very worried as the Police Headquarters approved the case filing despite repeated explanations from the eminent law professor at several important newspapers in the country."
The statement also urged the police to verify the source of the post by a specialist who can unearth the source of anything published in the social media.
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The statement also mentioned that the law Minister himself had openly announced to annul the section in the face of severe criticism from different quarters. Bangladesh Supreme Court had also issued a rule asking the government why the section 57 would not be declared unconstitutional.
"Taking the above facts into cognizance, we demand an immediate withdrawal of the case filed against Prof Asif Nazrul or else we would tend to believe that possession and expression of dissenting opinion in Bangladesh are at an extreme danger," reads the statement.
The signatories of the petition are- Dr Shahdeen Malik, Prof Dr Shahnaz Huda, Dr Iftekhar Zaman, Prof CR Abrar, Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Prof Dr Anu Muhammad, Prof Dr Ahmed Kamal, Prof Robayet Ferdous, Prof Dr Parveen Hasan, Barrister Sara Hossain, Dr Tasneem Siddiqui, Dr Shahidul Alam, Prof Dr Sumaiya Khair, Dr Badiul Alam Majumdar, Lubna Marium, Prof Swapan Adnan, Md Noor Khan, Rezaur Rahman, Zakir Hossain, Adilur Rahman Khan, Rehnuma Ahmed, Masud Khan, Farida Akhter, Ziaur Rahman, Shireen Huq