Asif Mohiuddin, a blogger arrested in April for posting “offensive comments about Islam and Mohammed” on his blog, was today granted provisional bail for one month on health grounds by Dhaka judge Zahirul Haque.
Mohiuddin was previously granted a month’s bail on health grounds on 27 June, but was returned for prison on 29 July for failing to report back in time to the court responsible for overseeing his release.
“We are relieved by Mohiuddin’s release and we hope that it will allow him to obtain appropriate medical treatment, especially as his health has worsened considerably since his arrest,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We meanwhile again urge the authorities to drop all the charges against him.”
Ever since his return to pre-trial custody on 29 July, Mohiuddin had been receiving treatment at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital for the knife wounds he received in a murder attempt on 14 January.
Arrested on 3 April, Mohiuddin is facing a possible 14-year jail sentence and fine of 100,000 euros on a charge of “hurting religious belief.” He is due to be tried on 25 August.
“Unjustifiable” decision to send blogger back to prison
Asif Mohiuddin, an atheist blogger who was freed on bail on 27 June after three months in pre-trial detention, was returned to prison yesterday by Dhaka judge Mohammad Akharuzzaman, who ruled that “no grounds” had been presented for extending his bail period.
Accused of making “derogatory contents about Islam and the Prophet Mohammed” on an online social network, Mohiuddin is facing a possible 14-year jail sentence. Three other bloggers who were arrested on the same charge – Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Russel Parvez and Mashiur Rahman Biplob – are still free on bail.
“The fact that the three other bloggers who are accused of the same offence are still free on bail shows the arbitrary and abusive nature of the decision to send Mohiuddin back to prison,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is completely unjustified, and the judge’s argument is iniquitous.
“It is up to the judicial system to prove that it is absolutely necessary to keep Mohiuddin in detention. He has been suffering from major injuries ever since a knife attack in January and, although he received treatment during the month he was free, he has still not recovered. Sending him back to prison will just make his condition worse.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We urge the Bangladeshi authorities to refrain from passing jail sentences on journalists, bloggers and Internet users. And we remind the judicial system that it has a duty to maintain its independence from groups motivated by political or religious ambitions that might try to influence it.
“We also point out that bloggers are in danger in prison, that they are exposed to death threats from fellow inmates who are members of Islamist organizations such as Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Hefazat-e-Islam.”
Mohiuddin was granted bail for an initial one-month period on medical grounds on 27 June. His request to extend the bail period, presented at yesterday’s hearing, was rejected by the judge, who ruled that there were “no new grounds.” He also ruled that Mohiuddin had violated his bail conditions by failing to present himself to the court before the month expired.
Arrested by the Dhaka Detective Branch on 3 April for posting “anti-religious” comments on his blog (http://www.somewhereinblog.net/blog/realAsifM), Mohiuddin is charged under the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Law. His blog was blocked by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on 21 March.
The other three bloggers were arrested on 1 April on the same grounds – for posting allegedly blasphemous content on social networks.