Kiron, also the chief of BFF women’s wing, was arrested for ‘accusing’ the prime minister of favouring cricket over football
Amnesty International on Monday called for immediate and unconditional release of Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, council member of global football governing body Fifa, who was recently arrested for allegedly defaming Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Kiron, also the chairperson of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) women’s wing, was arrested from her home in Dhanmondi, Dhaka on Saturday. She faces defamation charges for allegedly accusing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of favouring cricket over football.
She was produced to a Dhaka court the same day she was arrested, and denied bail.
"Championing football is not a crime. Mahfuza Akhter Kiron was merely exercising her right to freedom of expression by stating that the prime minister favoured cricket over football. If the implications of a defamation case were not so serious, it would be laughable. Mahfuza Akhter Kiron must be released immediately and unconditionally," said Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner at the international human rights watchdog, in a press statement issued on Monday.
If found guilty, Kiron could be sentenced to a maximum of two years under the Bangladesh Penal Code.
Amnesty termed Kiron’s arrest “the latest attack on freedom of expression” in Bangladesh.
“Following the enactment of the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) last year, there has been a chilling effect felt across civil society and the media, giving rise to self-censorship,” the statement said.
“Under the vaguely worded DSA, anyone can be imprisoned for up to 10 years and face heavy fines for sharing their legitimate views online. The punishment for a repeat offence can be life imprisonment.”
Over the past five months, the law enforcement authorities have arrested more than 60 people under the DSA for online comments critical of the prime minister and her family, according to the human rights defender.
“The crackdown on freedom of expression is one of the main reasons why Bangladesh's image has been tainted globally. As long as these arrests continue, and as long as these repressive laws remain in force, Bangladesh will be unable to claim its place as a rising economy that upholds human rights,” Hammadi said in the statement.
Bail petition likely to be filed Tuesday
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune on Monday, Kiron’s lawyer Liakat Hossain said they would file another bail petition with a Dhaka court on Tuesday.
“We were denied bail on the day she was produced at court. We will visit the court tomorrow [Tuesday] and will try to petition for bail again,” he said.
The Fifa council member is currently in Kashimpur jail.
Abul Hasan Chowdhury Prince, a permanent member of Mohammedan Sporting Club and Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club, as well as the vice-president of Badda Jagoroni Club, filed the case against Kiron, accusing her of making derogatory remarks against the prime minister.
The BFF is currently conducting an inquiry into the allegation.