Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bangladesh opposition newspaper editor arrested for cyber crime


Plainclothes detectives arrested Mahmudur Rahman, acting editor of pro-opposition daily Amar Desh on April 11 on charges of cyber crime dubbed as “Skypegate”.

Soon after he was taken out from his editorial office in Kawran Bazar this morning, in the capital Dhaka, he was driven with escorted by scores of riot police.

In the same afternoon, Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court agreed to give police 13 days remand in three cases against the editor. Police requested 24 days remand for interrogation.

The arrest was made following a case filed over Mahmudur's alleged involvement in publishing the transcript of Skype conversation in December 2012 on a High Court directive. Charges has been brought against him under sections 57 and 58 of Cyber Crime and ICT Act -2006 and sections 124, 124(a), 120(b) and 511 of the Penal Code, Deputy Commissioner of Police Masudur Rahman said.

In December 14, a case was filed against Rahman and Amar Desh publisher Hasmat Ali with Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in Dhaka for publishing the controversial Skype conversation between former International Crimes Tribunal chairman Justice Muhammad Nizamul Huq and expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert Ahmed Ziauddin.

Soon questions have been raised about the legality of hacking into Justice Huq's Skype conversation.

He was arrested after four months of the Skype scandal on the basis of evidence obtained after investigation. That is why his arrest took some time, explained office Mahmudur Rahman.

Amar Desh journalists complained that police took away footages from the close circuit cameras as well computers, CDs and files of the Acting Editor without a search warrant.

Rahman was acting editor of Amar Desh since 2008. Earlier he was energy advisor to former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia during the 2001-06 tenure.

Earlier Rahman was imprisoned on June 2, 2010 for six months over charges of contempt of court.

Secular groups alleged that Rahman is responsible for inciting religious sentiments against bloggers and online activists leading Shahbag Square movement demanding trial of war crimes by Islamists in 1971.

Amar Desh was held responsible by the bloggers for publishing scandalous page-one stories for depicted the bloggers as atheist and questionable loose moral characters. The Shahbag Square demanded arrest of Amar Desh editor Mahmudur Rahman and boycott newsstand sale of Amar Desh newspaper.

Pro-opposition Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists and Dhaka Union of Journalists have condemned the arrest of the Mahmudur Rahman. The employees, journalists of Amar Desh organized a sit-down protest in front of National Press Club this morning.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) criticised the arrest of Amar Desh acting editor Mahmudur Rahman and said it was a clear intimidation in freedom of expression.

A statement issued on behalf of BNP leader Khaleda Zia says, “Mahmudur Rahman, the brave fighter of free thoughts and expression, has secretly been arrested. The government has insulted the memory of 1971 martyrs in the manner of this arrest because those fighters had fought for freedom of expression.”

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA) is an independent journalist based in Bangladesh. He is correspondent for Paris based Reporters Without Border (RSF), an international media watchdog

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