The organization also called for the unconditional release of jailed political cartoonist Kabir Kishore
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Bangladeshi authorities to conduct a swift, independent, and transparent investigation into the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in custody.
The organization also called for the unconditional release of jailed political cartoonist Kabir Kishore and an investigation into claims that he was physically abused in detention.
CPJ is an international non-profit organization working to establish press freedom. They are headquartered in New York, US.
“Mushtaq Ahmed was pronounced dead on arrival [Thursday] at the Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Medical College Hospital, in the central city of Gazipur, after being transported from the Kashimpur Jail; he had been held since May for allegedly violating the country’s Digital Security Act,” said statement on the CPJ website on Thursday.
“The circumstances and cause of death are not yet known, Jyotirmoy Barua, Ahmed’s lawyer, told CPJ in a phone interview. Barua said that neither he nor Ahmed’s family members had been contacted by authorities informing them of the death, and that he learned about it via social media,” it added.
Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher, said: “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. 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.”
On February 23, Mushtaq appeared in court and was in decent health, Barua told CPJ. At that court appearance, Ahmed expressed concern about the health of political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, a co-accused in his case, according to Rezaur Rahman Lenin, a human rights activist and consultant for the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, who attended the hearing and spoke to CPJ via phone.
At the hearing, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been subjected to severe physical abuse while in police custody, sustaining a serious leg injury and ear injuries that have led to infections due to lack of adequate medical care, CPJ said quoting news reports, Lenin, and Barua.
An autopsy of writer and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed found no apparent signs of injury, according to the forensics department of Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College Hospital in Gazipur.
While waiting at the hospital morgue, Mushtaq’s brother Dr Nafisur Rahman also told reporters nothing appeared to be unusual with Mushtaq’s body.
On May 6 last year, Rapid Action Battalion arrested Mushtaq at his Dhaka home for "spreading rumours and carrying out anti-government activities."
The charges were filed under the Digital Security Act and he had been in that prison for over nine months since August 20.