Bangladesh: Crackdown on Bloggers, Editors Escalates #FOS #FOE #Censorship


speech
As Protests Sharpen Along Religious Lines, Government Should Not Curtail Free Speech
APRIL 15, 2013, hrw.org
“By targeting peaceful critics in the media and blogosphere and promising more arrests, the government is abandoning any serious claim that it is committed to free speech. Bangladeshis should have the right to peacefully express their views, and the state should address these demands through the rule of law instead of embarking on politically motivated arrests.”
Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – The Bangladesh authorities should immediately drop charges against and release four bloggers and a newspaper editor arrested this month, Human Rights Watch said today. All five are facing criminal charges solely related to the peaceful exercise of their right to free speech.

Human Rights Watch said the government should stop targeting individuals and media publishing stories the government deems objectionable and reaffirm its commitment to freedom of expression, a principle which the governing Awami League has long claimed to champion.

“By targeting peaceful critics in the media and blogosphere and promising more arrests, the government is abandoning any serious claim that it is committed to free speech,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Bangladeshis should have the right to peacefully express their views, and the state should address these demands through the rule of law instead of embarking on politically motivated arrests.”

Bangladesh has been gripped by large-scale protests, political unrest, and violence since the  International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a court set up to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence, sentenced a Jamaat-e-Islami party leader, Abdul Qader Mollah, to life in prison instead of capital punishment on February 5, 2013.

Hundreds of thousands throughout Bangladesh took to the streets in peaceful protests to demand that Mollah be hanged. The situation took a more violent turn after the ICT, on February 28, sentenced vice-president of the Jamaat party Delwar Hossain Sayedee to death by hanging after finding him guilty of war crimes. Following this verdict, supporters of the Jamaat party took to the streets in protest, leading to clashes between them, the Shahbagh protesters, and security forces attempting to control the protests. At least 90 people have died, most of them in police firing according to media and human rights groups.

While the “Shahbagh Movement” is campaigning for the death penalty for the accused, supporters of the Jamaat party are protesting the trial process and the rulings of the tribunal, claiming political bias.

Increasingly, the protests appear to have sharpened along religious lines, with some Islamist clerics demanding a blasphemy law and with others in the Shahbagh movement publishing statements supporting atheist principles, largely through blogs and other electronic media. In response, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reaffirmed that Bangladesh is a secular state.

Bloggers arrested

However, the criminal justice authorities also cracked down on government critics in the media, including social media. Following the arrests of the bloggers, the government made clear that the restrictions and arrests will continue. The Home Minister announced that he had a list of seven other “atheist bloggers” who would be arrested soon. The Law Minister announced that the government intended to increase its control over social media, blogs, and online news websites.

On April 2 and 3, police arrested four bloggers, Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, Rasel Parvez, and Asif Mohiuddin, who had posted articles either critical of the government’s attempts to appease the Islamist demands or that said that the government had failed to address the concerns of minority religions. Police described the four as “known atheists and naturalists” who wrote derogatory things about the Prophet, and said the four would face charges of “instigating negative elements against Islam to create anarchy.”

“These bloggers can only be called political prisoners, since they are in jail for peacefully expressing their views,” Adams said. “Freedom of religion also includes the freedom not to believe in a religion and to make those views known. For a government that has always presented itself as liberal and secular this is a huge retreat from the values it claims to uphold.”

News raids

In a further attack on free speech, on April 11 the police arrested Mahmdur Rahman, the editor of an opposition news outlet, Amar Desh. Rahman was subsequently charged with sedition and unlawful publication of a hacked conversation between the ICT judges and an external consultant. The conversations exposed political interference with the trials. The conversations were originally published by The Economist and later republished in Bangladesh by Amar Desh and other news organizations and websites. The Shahbagh protesters had earlier demanded Rahman’s arrest for critical reports about their movement.

The state minister for home affairs, speaking at a press conference, said that Rahman has “hurt Muslim religious sentiments.” Rahman had previously been arrested in 2010 on defamation charges but was later released and the charges were dropped. Rahman alleged torture and ill-treatment while in custody.
On April 14, the offices of another opposition newspaper, Daily Sangram, were raided by the police. The editor, Mohamed Abul Asad, has subsequently been charged for printing and publishing copies ofAmar Desh after authorities had shut down Amar Desh after Rahman’s arrest.

Rahman’s mother, who is the Acting Chairman ofAmar Desh, has also been charged along with over a dozen others in the same case.

Earlier, on February 16, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission had shut down theSonar Bangla blog, known to be operated by Jamaat activists, for spreading “hate speech and causing communal tension.” This came after a pro-Shahbagh blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was killed a day earlier by unknown assailants suspected to be pro-Jamaat.

“The arrest of a newspaper editor and shuttering his paper, which printed material that was terribly embarrassing to the government – so embarrassing that the chairman of the court resigned – suggests that the purpose of the arrests is to silence those who are critical of the way the war crimes trials have been carried out,” said Adams. “Rather than call for new trials that would have full credibility and ensure that any convictions are sound, the government has resorted to authoritarian tactics and a major crackdown on critics.”

Bangladesh amends war crimes law, mulls banning Islamists


By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA (Reuters) – DHAKA | Sun Feb

Feb 17 (Reuters) – Bangladesh‘s parliament, meeting the demands of protesters thronging the capital, amended a law on Sunday allowing the state to appeal any verdict in war crimes trials it deems inadequate and out of step with public opinion.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators jamming central Shahbag Square for the 13th day burst into cheers amid driving rain as the assembly approved the changes.

The protesters have been demanding the death penalty for war crimes after a tribunal this month sentenced a prominent Islamist to life in prison in connection with Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

The life sentence pronounced on Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, for murder, rape and torture had stunned many Bangaldeshis.

The amendment will “empower the tribunals to try and punish any organizations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, for committing crimes during country’s liberation war in 1971”, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said after the change was approved.

Lawyers said the amendment sets a timetable for the government to appeal against Mollah’s sentence and secure a retrial. The previous law did not allow state prosecutors to call for a retrial except in the case of acquittals.

Adoption was quick — less than a week after the amendment was approved by the cabinet in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 150 million.

OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS PARLIAMENT

Opposition benches were empty as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (the BNP) of former premier Begum Khaleda Zia and its allies have been boycotting sessions almost since her arch rival, Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, took office in 2009.

The BNP accuses the prime minister of using the war crimes tribunal as a weapon against its opponents. Hasina denies the allegation.

In its first verdict last month, the tribunal sentenced a former Jamaat leader, Abul Kamal Azad, also an Islamic preacher, to death in absentia for similar offences.

Eight other Jamaat leaders, including its current and former chiefs, are being tried by the war crimes court that Hasina set up in 2010 to investigate abuses during the 1971 conflict. Three million people were killed and thousands of women were raped.

The government is facing growing pressure from the protesters to ban Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, and groups linked to it.

Students and teachers throughout the country hoisted the national flag and sang the national anthem simultaneously to support the demonstrators’ call to put war criminals to death.

Law minister Shafique Ahmed told reporters the government was considering such a ban.

Jamaat activists have called a country-wide strike for Monday, but demonstrators and many shopkeepers have pledged to resist any attempt to enforce such a stoppage.

Demonstrators have shown new resolve after the killing on Friday of one of the protest leaders, a popular blogger.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces.

Some factions in what was then East Pakistan opposed the break with Pakistan. Jamaat denies accusations that it opposed independence and helped the Pakistani army.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

 

Bangladesh war crimes trial: Blogger killed, violence escalates


Feb 17, 2013

 

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, a 30-year-old architect, was found dead near the gate of his home on Friday night, a local police official, Abdul Latif Sheikh, said. An autopsy showed Haider had at least eight stab wounds, said Sohel Mahmud, a physician at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said.

Police have launched an investigation into the killing, but would not say anything about who may have been responsible. Haider’s family and friends suspect Jamaat-e-Islami in the attack, but the Islamic party issued a statement Saturday denying involvement.

Demonstrations in Bangladesh. AP.Demonstrations in Bangladesh. AP.

His friends said Haider posted many statements in his blog urging the young generation to support tougher punishments for Mollah and others facing charges stemming from the 1971 war for independence.

For many in Bangladesh, the “V” for victory sign was more than they could bear.

They had waited more than four decades for justice in the mass killings and rapes during their independence war. But there was a smiling Abdul Quader Mollah on Feb. 5 apparently celebrating his life sentence — given in place of an expected death sentence — for his role in the killing of 381 civilians.

Within hours, thousands of university students demanding his death poured into the streets of Dhaka, the seeds of what has grown into a mass protest that has exposed again the unhealed wounds from the nation’s 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.

“I could not take it. That was really insulting,” Gazi Nasiruddin Khokon, a protester who works for an online newspaper, said of Mollah’s victorious gesture after his sentencing last week. “If we don’t get proper justice for such crimes, where would we stand in the future?”

Mollah was convicted by a special war crimes tribunal that was set up to hold people accountable for the first time for their roles in the civil war, where Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators.

But the trials are also seen as part of a long and bitter rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the main opposition leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is allied with the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, many of whose leaders face charges before the tribunal.

Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh’s fight for independence, and Zia have called the tribunal politically motivated, while international rights groups have raised questions about the conduct of the trials. The head of one of the tribunals resigned in December over reports he had improper conversations with a lawyer about the panel.

Mollah, an assistant secretary of Jamaat, was found guilty Feb. 5 of killing a student and a family of 11 and of aiding Pakistani troops in killing 369 others. Members of his party took to the streets in anger at his conviction, exploding homemade bombs and clashing with police.

But they were soon overshadowed by thousands of protesters who flooded a major intersection in the capital, Dhaka, upset by what they said was a lenient sentence of life in prison, which actually means just 14 years in Bangladesh. They also were inflamed by the image of Mollah smiling at journalists and holding up two fingers in a “V” sign as he was led from the court, apparently in celebration of his avoiding the death penalty.

Fueled by online posts, the protests grew until hundreds of thousands of people took over the Shahbagh intersection, which they renamed Projonmo Chattar, or New Generation Platform.

Many slept there, collecting donations for food. Others came after work and stayed late into the night, listening to chants for justice over loudspeakers. Some beat drums and wrapped their heads in scarves with slogans saying “We want death for the war criminals” and “Traitors have no place in this land.”

The protesters also called for Jamaat to be banned.

The immensely popular national cricket team came to the site to express solidarity with the protesters, and on Thursday evening, organizers said more than 100,000 candles were lit at the site.

To counter any accusations that the protest was organized by Hasina’s government, politicians were banned from the stage.

“This is a history. A new history is in the making,” said Aminul Islam, a 30-year-old bank employee at the protest site.

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “This is our fight, this is another war, not with rifles in hand, but with an unconditional urge to bringing those to book for killing our people and dishonoring our mothers and sisters.”

Even though many of the protesters had not been born when the war raged, they were still scarred by it and the lack of accountability for those accused of crimes during the fighting, said Hassan Shahriar. To some that lack of accountability was reflected in the fact two members of Jamaat have served as Cabinet ministers.

“Generation after generation have seen no remedy, no punishment for the perpetrators. Rather they have become influential political actors, social actors, and the new generation has been silently frustrated,” he said. “The wounds are still fresh.”

The protesters are also fed up with corruption, nepotism and other perceived injustices and have seized on the tribunals to express their dissatisfaction, he said.

On Saturday, nearly 100,000 people mourned as the body of a blogger believed to be one of the organizers of the protest was brought to the intersection.

In response to the demonstrations, the government has sent a bill to Parliament that would amend the law creating the tribunals, allowing the prosecution to appeal if it felt a sentence handed down was too lenient.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said the bill was expected to be passed by Parliament on Sunday, and the government has said it would use it to appeal Mollah’s sentence.

One legal analyst, Shahdeen Malik, said the amendments would strengthen the law, and that the country’s legal system could be counted on to give verdicts based on evidence and not simply in response to street pressure.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the proposed amendments, saying that passing retroactive laws to overturn unpopular verdicts violated the country’s commitments to protect the rights of defendants.

“Convictions of those responsible for the 1971 atrocities is important for the country, but not at the expense of the principles that make Bangladesh a democracy,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

AP

 

Protests erupt in Bangladesh after war-crimes verdict


By Farid Ahmed for CNN
February 7, 2013 — U

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) — Outraged by a court verdict they considered too lenient, thousands of people took to the streets across Bangladesh on Wednesday demanding the death penalty for an Islamic party leader convicted of war crimes carried out more than four decades ago.

“We’ve taken additional measures across the country to heighten security,” State Minister for Home Affairs Shamsul Hoque told reporters.

From horror to hope: Boy’s miracle recovery from brutal attack

The demonstrations began Tuesday, when an International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general for the Jamaat-e-Islami party, to life in prison.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party had called for a two-day general strike across Bangladesh beginning Tuesday, and demonstrators clashed with police and demanded that ruling party officials scrap the trial process.

The government on Tuesday evening called in paramilitary troopers to maintain law and order in Dhaka and elsewhere as deadly protests erupted after the verdict.

Jamaat-e-Islami protested the verdict as demonstrators — including some from ruling party alliances — took to the streets demanding the death penalty for Mollah.

Read more: General strike disrupts life in Bangladesh

“We’ve deployed troopers from the Border Guards of Bangladesh to maintain law and order,” Hoque said.

Hundreds of Dhaka University students took to the streets in the capital’s Shahbagh Square, where they were joined by other city residents in protests that began Tuesday.

Home Ministry officials said security forces were patrolling in Dhaka and other major cities, including in the large southeastern port city of Chittagong, where at least four people were killed Tuesday during clashes between police and supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Police opened fire and shot tear-gas shells to disperse the protesters, who torched and otherwise damaged more than 100 vehicles in major cities.

Jamaat-e-Islami said its members would continue to protest; many of its leaders are behind bars facing charges of murder, arson, looting and rape stemming from the war of independence in 1971.

Read more: Clinton leaves drama in China for turmoil in Bangladesh

They said the war-crimes trials, which began after more than 40 years of independence, was done with “ill political motive.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showed no sign of backing down, saying the trials would be completed at any cost.

The government, which promised in its election pledges in 2008 to complete the war-crimes trials, set up the tribunals in 2010.

Amid tight security, a three-member panel of judges of the International Crimes Tribunal-2 delivered the judgment against Mollah in a crowded courtroom on Tuesday.

Mollah, 64, was found guilty of five of six charges, including murder.

They included crimes against humanity, tribunal Chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan said.

After the verdict was read, Mollah stood from the chair on which he had been seated and cried, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great!)

He declared he was innocent and began to curse the judges and the government.

He then pulled a copy of the Quran from his pocket and held it in front of him, saying that the judges would one day find themselves on trial in accordance with the holy book’s law.

Lawmakers of the ruling party alliance criticized the verdict in parliament and asked the prosecution to appeal for the death penalty.

Mollah, who was the chief of the students’ wing of Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971, is the first Jamaat-e-Islami leader convicted in a war-crimes case by the tribunal.

On January 21, the same tribunal sentenced to death the first war crimes convict, Abul Kalam Azad, alias Bachchu Razakar.

Bangladesh had been the eastern portion of Pakistan until it gained independence in 1971 in a war that killed 3 million people.

 

Anti- State- Poem #sedition #censorship


 William Nicholas Gomes; a promising name, a poet, journalist and human rights activist. He is well known for his outspoken, impartial, uncompromising position on the issues of human rights violations. He is an ambassador of peace, who advocates democracy and rule of law, on issues worldwide.

Recently his web site www.williamgomes.org has been blocked in Bangladesh by the fascist government. It is believed that the root cause is very recent poem “Anti State” and “Pen” which were written and published on the website by the revolutionary poet William Gomes.

William’s only weapon is his pen and he penned two poems and that have shocked and challenged the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and her fascist government.

The ruling government is well known for the corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture and growing number of disappearances country wide.

INTELLIGENCE

ANTI STATE – A POEM– by william gomes


I am ANTI STATE!
Yes, I am!
I am against the state, which runs on the bases of injustices
I am against the state which comes out of killings
I am against its every system
I am against its governments
I am against its Presidents, Prime Ministers
I am against its criminal hierarchy
I am against all those leaders of criminals in the parliament

Yes, they are criminals!
They are the traders of injustice,
They are the killers of justice
They are root and reasons of injustices

They are the creator of poverty
They crates poverty
They are traders of poverty
Yes! When people are poor, they are powerful
Yes, they are powerful and I am poor!
Yes, I am people!

They are running the corporate state of injustice
They are traders of hatred,
They sell hatred
They sell riots!
They do everything for power!

They are traders of religions
They sells the ALLAH, RAM , BUDDHA , JESUS !
They have declared war on people
They have declared war on peace
I declared war on these criminals,
I declared war on their System

I declare that I am anti state
For sure, I am for the people!
I am people!
I will burn their RED and GREEN flag,
I will burn the constitution of injustice
I will burn down the parliament
I will burn down all into ashes

I dream no red and green flag
No traders of injustice
But a place full of peaceful of people!
No mater, if need to change the name of Bangladesh
I declare, I will change it!
I will change for peace, for people
I declare, I am anti state!


— 

Bangladesh Blocks Website Of Christian Dissident #Censorship


(BosNewsLife Exclusive)
Sunday, May 27, 2012 (12:34 pm)

William Nicholas Gomes has been hiding in Hong Kong.

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

DHAKA/HONG KONG (BosNewsLife)– Bangladesh has reportedly blocked the website of leading Christian rights activist, author and journalist William Nicholas Gomes, who now lives in exile amid fears of repercussions.

Speaking from his hiding place in Hong Kong, he told BosNewsLife Sunday, May 27, that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina became upset about his writings, including a critical poem on injustices in the impoverished Asian nation.

In his poem ‘Anti state’ he wrote among other words “I am against the state, which runs on the bases of injustices, I am against the state which comes out of killings.”

Soon after, authorities allegedly shut down the influential site. “My website has been blocked in Bangladesh – people can not see my site,” he explained.

The activist said he is moving his williamgomes.org website to another “save location” within the next few weeks to reach Bangladesh again and that it therefore can’t currently be seen elsewhere in the world.

CENSHORSHIP THREAT

Gomes, 28, stressed that authorities also plan to file “sedition” charges against him. There was no immediate response from officials.

“I believe that censorship is a possible way for the powerful to terminate individualism and promotes governmental coercion and totalitarianism,” Gomes complained.

He acknowledged that “some people urge that restrictions are valid only if they are for the sake of a greater good, a greater liberty.” However, “I believe that Censorship is a restriction that is not for greater liberty, but for the deprivation of liberty.”

The activist asked the prime minister “to remove the block and publicly apologize for this heinous act.”

Gomes lives in Hong Kong since last year when he reportedly fled his native Bangladesh after being detained and tortured by members of Bangladesh’s government-backed Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a police elite force.

MORE KILLINGS

He was eventually freed, but rights group Amnesty International said at least 200 others were killed by the RAB since 2009, when Prime Minister Hasina took office.

Gomes believes he was targeted by officials in Bangladesh because he traveled throughout the country to investigate racial discrimination and other human rights violations in villages on behalf of the independent Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a group of jurists and activists.

He also covered religious rights issues as a reporter for Catholic news agency AsiaNews.

While traveling, the former Muslim, made it a point to pray and speak with people about his new-found faith in Christ. “While walking over often muddy roads, I prayed that each home would become part of the Body of Christ, His Church,” he told BosNewsLife in an earlier interview.

But as 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 142 million people are Muslims, preaching or tackling religious rights issues can lead to difficulties for minority Christians because of strict Islamic authorities, he and other activists suggested.

ASIAN CHRISTIANS

Though the website remains closed, Gomes said he was thankful to other Asian Christians for helping him, including “the Pakistan Christian community”, who have also complained about persecution under blasphemy laws.

“I condemn persecution of religious communities in Bangladesh,” Nazir Bhatti, who heads Christian party Pakistan Christian Congress, a major political force in Pakistan.

“[I] urge Prime Minister Hassina…to make Bangladesh a truly Peoples Republic that equality may be observed among Muslims and Christians and other minorities” he added in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.

Gomes is staying in Hong Kong without his young wife Annie Jhumur Halder and two small sons, Felix Eugene and Lalon Mark, who he said have been prevented from joining him.

Read more here

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,231 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,778,431 hits

Archives

April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  
%d bloggers like this: