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The men were charged with publishing offensive and false information, among other crimes. — Reuters pic
The men were charged with publishing offensive and false information, among other crimes. — Reuters pic

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DHAKA, Sept 12 — A high-profile cartoonist and a Sweden-based journalist were among seven men charged today under Bangladesh’s internet law that critics say is being used against opposition figures.

A court in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka accepted formal charges laid out by police under the Digital Security Act against cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore and rights activist and journalist Tasneem Khalil, prosecutor Nazrul Islam Shamim said.

The men were charged with publishing offensive and false information, defamation and intentionally publishing digital content that creates unrest or disorder.

They face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

“The court has also issued warrants of arrest against four of them who have been absconding,” Shamim told AFP.

Rights groups including Amnesty International say the law is being used to silence and intimidate critics of the government in the country of 169 million people.

Kishore, 45, said he was a “victim of injustice”.

“Drawing cartoons isn’t a crime,” he told AFP via a phone call after the charges were announced.

Following street protests, Kishore was granted bail in March after he was detained in May last year on preliminary charges under the internet law.

Kishore said he was tortured before police detained him.

He filed a petition with a Dhaka court over the torture allegations, which police have denied. There has been no decision on the petition so far. 

Kishore said his alleged torturers had asked questions about cartoons he drew mocking a powerful businessman close to the government as well as a series criticising the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shamim did not detail the specific acts allegedly committed by the cartoonist.

Amnesty said in a July report that Bangladesh had at least 433 people detained under the internet law as of that month. 

Most were being held on allegations of publishing false and offensive information online, the global rights group added. — AFP

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