Asad Noor, who has lived in hiding for the past six years because of threats from Muslim fundamentalists, has been sought by the police since 13 July after posting videos contradicting government propaganda against a Buddhist monk who opposed the illegal appropriation of a Buddhist temple in the southeastern city of Chittagong.
The police are accusing him under the Digital Security Act of spreading rumours and defaming Islam on Facebook and other digital platforms because he defended the monk and 10 Minute School, a pro-LGBT educational platform that has been threatened by the local branch of Al Qaeda.
Saying Noor and the monk should be hanged, a government ally encouraged Islamists to take to the street in Chittagong on 17 July to demand their arrest. In response to the dangerous climate created by this demonstration, members of the local Buddhist community formed a human chain around the local press club.
The next day, police went to the Noor family home in Amtoly, a town in the southern district of Barguna, abducted several members of his family and held them for 48 hours.
“We call for the immediate withdrawal of the charges against Asad Noor and we urge the authorities to restore his passport,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “He has been hounded for more than six years. It is high time the authorities ended the persecution of this blogger and those close to him. Otherwise, we will hold them responsible for anything that happens to them.”
While in transit at Dhaka airport in December 2017, when he was 25, Noor was arrested on a charge of “hurting religious feeling” in comments on Facebook and YouTube. Initially released on bail in August 2018, he was re-arrested as a result of pressure from radical Islamist groups. He was finally freed in January 2019, but the authorities confiscated his passport.
Since then, he has continued to live in hiding, partly in India and partly in Bangladesh, but now without any papers.
Bangladesh is ranked 150th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.