May 17, 2019
Bangladesh authorities made a series of new arrests in their crackdown on the right to free speech, Human Rights Watch said today. The arrests were based on vague charges such as “hurting religious sentiment” or undermining “law and order.”
Those arrested include Abdul Kaium, a human rights activist; Henry Sawpon, a well-known poet; and Imtiaz Mahmood, a lawyer. All three were detained and charged under section 57 of the draconian Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Act or its more abusive successor, the Digital Security Act 2018.
“Arresting activists, poets, and lawyers for exercising their right to free speech is straight out of the authoritarian playbook,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Bangladesh government should stop locking up its critics and review the law to ensure it upholds international standards on the right to peaceful expression.”
A group of writers, artists, and journalists staged a protest in Dhaka’s Shahbagh square on May 15, saying they would go on an indefinite strike beginning on May 17 if Sawpon and Mahmood were not released. Both Sawponand Mahmood were granted bail on May 16; Kaium remains in detention.