June 16, 2017
Human rights groups have warned about the safety of a prominent Bangladeshi lawyer after Islamist leaders threatened to “break every bone” in her body for defending the installation of a Lady Justice statue outside the country’s supreme court.
Sultana Kamal’s remarks on a television talk show last month have earned her death threats from Muslim hardliners in Bangladesh, where religious fanatics are suspected to have killed 30 activists and writers among others in the past four years.
Kamal, the chair of anti-corruption group Transparency International Bangladesh, appeared in a televised debate in May about a Lady Justice statue that was installed outside the supreme court building last year.
Islamist groups including the hardline Hefazat-e-Islam campaigned to have the statue torn down on the grounds that its presence was an example of idol worship, forbidden in Islam.
During the debate, a Hefazat leader argued the statue was a religious object, and therefore had no place outside the supreme court of the country, which has been officially secular since it broke away from Pakistan in 1971. Kamal responded that by the same logic, “no mosques should be on the premises either”.
In response, Hefazat called for Kamal to be arrested or exiled within 24 hours. A senior leader of the organisation warned her: “If you come out to the streets, we will break every bone in your body.”
Kamal told the Guardian the threat had triggered a wave of “abusive postings on Facebook”, including images doctored to show the activist being lynched.