Bangladesh police arrest lawyer-publisher tied to opposition

Members of the Newspaper Editors’ Council of Bangladesh form a human chain in front of National Press Club on October 15, demanding an amendment to the newly enacted digital law. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Bangladesh police arrest lawyer-publisher tied to opposition

  • Detectives arrested Moinul Hosein after raiding an opposition leader’s home in Dhaka
  • Details of the charges were not immediately clear including whether they were related to a recently passed digital security law
DHAKA, Bangladesh: A prominent lawyer and newspaper publisher who is tied to Bangladesh’s political opposition has been arrested on defamation charges amid concern the government is acting tough on dissent ahead of national elections, police said Tuesday.
Detectives arrested Moinul Hosein late Monday after raiding an opposition leader’s home in the capital, said Mahbub Alam, a joint commissioner of the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Hosein is the publisher of the English-language New Nation daily and heads its editorial board.
Alam said the warrant issued by a court in northern Bangladesh on Monday involved a television talk show appearance where Hosein called a journalist “characterless” after she asked him if he represented the Jamaat-e-Islami party to a recently formed opposition alliance.
Details of the charges were not immediately clear including whether they were related to a recently passed digital security law.
The head of the alliance is another prominent lawyer and head of a smaller party, Kamal Hossain, who was chosen by prominent opposition figures and civil society members including Hosein.
The main party in the alliance is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is now in jail for corruption and whose elder son is the party’s heir-apparent and would face prison himself if he returned from London where he lives. Recently a court in Dhaka sentenced Tarique Rahman to life in prison for a 2004 grenade attack on then-opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister, in which 24 people were killed. Hasina narrowly escaped.
The opposition alliance was formed this month in hopes of defeating the ruling alliance of Hasina in the next elections, which are expected to be held in December.
Jamaat-e-Islami is a close ally of Zia’s party, and Hasina’s government has executed almost all the party’s top leaders for their role in killings, arson and rape during Bangladesh’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
Hosein, who is a critic of Hasina, is expected to be produced before the court Tuesday. He was a former adviser to an army-backed caretaker government in 2006-2008 when both Hasina and Zia were arrested before Hasina came out and won the elections in 2008 to form the government.
Hosein’s arrest came hours after Hasina criticized his comment against the journalist and asked female journalists to file defamation charges against him.
The government has recently passed a digital security law, despite widespread criticism by journalists and rights groups that it would be used against freedom of speech and press freedom. The government says it has been enacted to protect the country from misinformation and propaganda.


Facebook asked to protect users in simmering Sri Lanka

Updated 16 min 31 sec ago
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Facebook asked to protect users in simmering Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka has been in crisis since last month with two men claiming to be prime minister
  • The United National Party wrote to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg asking the US firm not to cooperate with Rajapaksa’s administration

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s largest political party Saturday asked Facebook to protect the identity of its supporters, fearing a crackdown by what it called the “illegal” government.
The Indian Ocean nation has been in crisis since last month with two men claiming to be prime minister, MPs brawling in parliament and the administration paralyzed.
It began on October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In chaotic scenes in parliament this week, Rajapaksa lost two votes of no confidence but he is refusing to go and Sirisena has yet to acknowledge the motions.
On Saturday Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) wrote to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg asking the US firm not to cooperate with Rajapaksa’s administration.
“We urge Facebook to refrain from disclosing information about... users of the platform to any officials of the illegal government unless it is properly sanctioned by a court of law,” the UNP said.
The UNP had also complained that its official page was blocked by Facebook on Thursday ahead of a mass rally it organized to express solidarity with Wickremesinghe, who insists he is still prime minister.
Sirisena ordered a ban on Facebook across Sri Lanka in March after blaming it for spreading hate speech and fueling intercommunal violence that led to the deaths of three people and destruction of property.
Since then, Facebook had said it was deploying more staff to identify and remove inflammatory material from Sri Lankan users.
This week Sri Lankans had to rely on social media to watch their lawmakers fighting and throwing chilli powder after the main telecommunications company stopped its live broadcast.