Bangladeshi Blogger Arrested for Criticizing Islam on Facebook

Bangladeshi blogger was arrested last month for allegedly “insulting Islam” on Facebook posts. The detainee is Mohan Kumar Mondal, a political activist and chief of LEDARS, a local environmental NGO.

Mohan Kumar Mondal

The blogger was arrested on 26 September in Sathkhira, south west Bangladesh. He is facing charges of publishing material which “hurts or is likely to hurt religious sentiments” under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. The controversial ICT Act allows a maximum of 14 years imprisonment over violations on social, political and religious issues online.

According to reports, the blogger criticized on Facebook the rationality of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, where over 2,000 people were killed in a stampede a couple of days before his arrest. Mondal also criticized Saudi authorities for their failure in preventing the tragedy.

In 2014, four bloggers and additional eight journalists, Facebook users, and civil society activists who criticized the government have been indicted by court under the ICT Act. Mondal’s arrest continues this harmful course for freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

Mondal is currently being held in Sathkhira jail, after his bail was rejected. His relatives claim that his appeal to High Court has failed. International Business Times quotes Mondal’s wife claiming that her husband had no offensive intentions:

“He made comments being emotional as many people died in the stampede in Mina in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the symbolic stoning of the devil”

According to the Freedom House’s 2014 Freedom of the Net report, Bangladesh is “partly free”. Internet penetration rate stands on only 6.5% and political and social content is being censored. However, social media apps are not blocked.

Bangladesh has been suffering from a wave of killings over a “hit-list” of secular bloggers issued by Islamic fundamentalists. At least four bloggers have been murdered in Bangladesh since the beginning on the year. The Bangladeshi authorities are accused of turning a blind eye to the murders, by neglecting to conduct a thorough investigation and arrest the people responsible for the murders and the creation of the list.

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