Bangladeshi writer, detained over anti-govt social media posts, dies in jail
According to The New York Times (NYT), Ahmed's death inside prison is raising alarms about the country's crackdown on dissent.
Bangladeshi writer Mushtaq Ahmed who was detained last year over social media posts that were critical of the country's government has died in jail, officials and family members said on Friday.
According to The New York Times (NYT), Ahmed's death inside prison is raising alarms about the country's crackdown on dissent. He was among 11 people who were charged for spreading social media content, including cartoons, that alleged mismanagement and corruption in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's response to the pandemic last year.
They were charged for "posting rumors against the Father of the Nation, the war of independence."
His case was brought under Bangladesh's Digital Security Act, a 2018 law that gives the Bangladeshi government wide-ranging powers to search, fine and arrest anyone who violates its vague tenets, including violating "the solidarity, financial activities, security, defense, religious values or public discipline of the country."
The Asian Human Rights Commission said it had documented the arrest of 138 people last year -- journalists, students and political activists -- for criticizing Hasina's government.
NYT further reported that the writer was held in the high-security Kashimpur prison and was denied bail six times. Rights organizations demanded an investigation into his death and called for the repeal of the Digital Security Act, which also includes measures to protect against cybercrimes and attacks.
Mohammad Gias Uddin, the senior superintendent of the jail where Ahmed was held, said the writer had lost consciousness on Thursday evening and was taken to the prison hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival when prison guards later took him to a larger medical facility in the nearby city Gazipur.
Doctors at the prison reported that Ahmed "never complained about his health issues," Uddin told NYT that Ahmed "used to take pills for gastric and headache."
Nafeesur Rahman, Ahmed's cousin and also a physician, said he had been present during the autopsy. "I have not found any injury mark anywhere on his body," adding that he found his cousin's heart to be enlarged and that his blood pressure was very low when he lost consciousness.
In one of his posts on Facebook before his arrest last May, Ahmed compared the country's health minister to a cockroach. In another, he wrote, "When a society laments the loss of an economy more than the loss of human life, it doesn't need a virus, it's already sick."