Protests in Dhaka after writer’s death in jail

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By Sumi Khan
Dhaka, Feb 26 : Protests erupted in Dhaka after writer and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, denied bail six times, died in Kashimpur jail.

Blaming the government for the death and demanded repeal of the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA), protesters threatened to lay siege to the Home Ministry on March 1.

Ahmed, 53, used to write under the pen name Michael Kumir Thakur and was critical on social media of the government’s handling of the pandemic. His book “Kumir (crocodile) Chasher Diary” was published in November 2018, and he was working on another book.

However, he, along with cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, were arrested under the DSA by the elite Rapid Action Battalion on May 6, 2020 allegedly for “spreading rumours and carrying out anti-government activities”.

On February 23, Ahmed and cartoonist Kishore were brought to the cyber crimes tribunal for hearing where he was denied bail again. The judge directed the investigators to launch a “further probe” into the case and submit a report by March 23. Kishore’s brother Ahsan Kabir had last seen the duo then.

The Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) filed a petition seeking three days’ remand for Ahmed, just two days before his death in jail on Thursday.

Dhaka Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Md Abu Bakar Siddique had set February 28 for the hearing of the petition and asked the authorities concerned to produce the duo before the court from prison, General Recording Officer Nizam Uddin told IANS on Friday.

Syed Bayezid, sub-inspector of Joydevpur Police Station in Gazipur, who prepared the inquest report said sores were found on the back of Ahmed. Also, reddish-black small spots were found on his right and left hands.

According to the forensics department of Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College in Gazipur, the writer’s autopsy report said there weren’t any apparent signs of injuries on his body.

However, head of the hospital’s forensic department Dr Shafi Mohaimen said that further details can be disclosed only after the autopsy report is submitted.

“He suddenly lost consciousness around 7.10 p.m. on Thursday. We immediately took him to Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College Hospital. A doctor declared him dead at around 8.20 p.m.,” Gias Uddin, acting superintendent of Kashimpur High Security Jail, told IANS on Friday.

According to the police, a case of unnatural death has been filed with Joydebpur police station. A police official said that he suspected that the wounds might have occurred while taking the body to the hospital.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said an investigation committee would be formed to look into the death of Mushtaq.

The deceased writer is survived by his wife Lipa Akhter and elderly parents in Lalmatia.

Quoting the family members of Mushtaq Ahmed, ‘Rastrachinta Mancha’ member Didarul Bhuiyan said on Friday afternoon that the body of the writer was handed over to his family from Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Hospital at about 12.30 p.m. after the postmortem.

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