A Dhaka court finally decided yesterday to release Asif Mohiuddin, an atheist blogger who was arrested on 3 April. Charged with violating the Information and Communication Technology Act, he will hopefully be freed on 30 June after 88 days in detention, during which his health has worsened considerably.
“It is regrettable that the judicial authorities took so long to release Mohiuddin despite knowing that his state of health needed special medical attention that was denied him all the time he was held,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We call for the withdrawal of all the charges against Mohiuddin and three other bloggers – Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Rasel Parvez. Article 57 of the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Act violates the fundamental freedoms of the press and information, the Bangladeshi constitution and international standards.
“No journalists or bloggers should face the possibility of a prison sentence for the information or views they post online. The judicial system must also do everything possible to avoid becoming a tool controlled entirely by individuals or groups with political or religious motives.”
According to Mohiuddin’s family, the court order for his release is due to be delivered to prison officials by state courier on 30 June and he will hopefully be released the same day. He is currently receiving treatment at the prison infirmary in Bangabandhu University Medical Hospital.
Judge Zahurul Haque issued Mohiuddin’s release order in response to a request by his lawyer for his release on bail. His lawyer, Jyotirmoy Barua, said the court freed him on health grounds, because his condition had deteriorated in prison.
The other three bloggers charged under article 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act were released on bail on 12 May and 2 June by the same court, which simultaneously rejected a request for Mohiuddin’s release.
The court yesterday also postponed the formal presentation of charges against the four bloggers until 25 August, attributing the delay to differences in the petitions filed by their lawyers.
A militant atheist, Mohiuddin was arrested for posting “anti-religious” comments on his blog (http://www.somewhereinblog.net/blog/realAsifM), which was blocked by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on 21 March.