Police in Bangladesh have arrested several “atheist bloggers” and shut down their websites. Those confirmed arrested include Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, and Rasel Parvez, from Dhaka, and the popular blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, who was viciously attacked in January. They have all been interrogated and remanded in custody. Islamists have provided the Bangladeshi government with a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” demanding that they repent or face “blasphemy” charges. The British Humanist Association is calling for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to intervene and encouraging members to write to the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Gibson to urge him to lodge a formal complaint with the Government of Bangladesh.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has condemned the arrests as “a failure of authorities to focus on the real issues of justice at hand” and “walking into a trap set by fundamentalists”. There are real concerns about the human rights violations and the possible punishments the bloggers may face, as well as for their safety in public regardless of the outcome of legal proceedings. Members of the Jamaat-e-islami party and other Islamists have called for the death penalty for bloggers who “insult religion”. In February this year a blogger known in connection with anti-Islamist protests and for criticising religion, Ahmed Rajib, aka Thaba Baba, was murdered in a machete attack in his home.
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA and First Vice President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union representing over a hundred Humanist member organisations around the world, commented ‘This is a grave politically motivated situation which yet again shows the danger of ‘blasphemy’ laws to those who dare to express an opinion which goes against religious and fundamentalist sentiments.
‘There are clearly huge failures on the part of the authorities to bring focus on the real and fundamental issues of justice, human rights and the rule of law. This feeds into the wider political context of the failure to bring to justice war criminals and the wrongful arrest of these campaigners are nothing but a diversionary tactic. The arrests, violence and harassment that these people are facing must stop and the British Government must take a strong stance to ensure that this happens.’
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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.