The association also demanded that the charges against cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore be dropped
PEN International, a global association of writers, has demanded that the Bangladesh government immediately repeal the Digital Security Act, as well as conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the writer Mushtaq Ahmed’s death in custody.
The association also said they were pleased that cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore has been released on bail for six months and called for the charges against him to be dropped.
“In May 2020, Mushtaq Ahmed was arrested on suspicion of violating the Digital Security Act (DSA) in connection to several posts on his personal Facebook page and the satirical ‘I am Bangladeshi’ Facebook page that he helped to run as administrator. Ahmed was one of eleven individuals named in a formal police complaint that accused them of spreading rumours and misinformation on Facebook about the coronavirus situation,” said a statement on the PEN International website on Wednesday.
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“Following Ahmed's initial arrest on May 4, 2020, he remained imprisoned without trial up until his death on February 25, 2021. Despite the Bangladeshi government having released thousands of prisoners in recognition of the risk that Covid-19 poses to detainees, Ahmed and Kishore’s requests for bail were denied on six occasions. On February 4, 2021, the Bangladeshi authorities formally charged Ahmed and Kishore under the DSA, nine months after they were initially detained,” it added.
Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said: “Mushtaq Ahmed, who should never have been in jail, is no longer with us because of a law that has no reason to exist. Bangladesh has been warned by writers, journalists, and human rights experts that its Digital Security Act is draconian and has no place in a democratic society. Bangladesh must first institute an inquiry to investigate what happened that led to Mushtaq Ahmed's death and take appropriate steps by prosecuting those responsible for his passing. In the 50th year of its independence, it should remove all laws that undermine human rights and democracy in Bangladesh.”