Bangladesh police have arrested three atheist bloggers for allegedly defaming Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, police said Tuesday, amid calls from religious fundamentalists for an Internet crackdown.
The arrest of the three, who were paraded in handcuffs at a news conference, followed pressure from Islamists who have organised a march from all over the country to the capital to demand the death penalty for atheist bloggers.
“They have hurt the religious feelings of the people by writing against different religions and their prophets and founders including the Prophet Mohammed,” said deputy commissioner of Dhaka police, Molla Nazrul Islam.
The three could face 10 years in jail if convicted under the country’s cyber laws which outlaw “defaming” a religion, Islam said.
He denied the arrests were linked to the planned march to Dhaka set for Saturday.
Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan said the three arrested men were among 84 “atheist bloggers” named in a list handed over by an Islamist group to a government panel probing alleged blasphemy against Islam on the Internet.
“The arrests were made on primary information” and further investigation is underway, Khan said, adding the government would act toughly to prevent any attempt to upset “communal harmony” via the Internet.
There has been vociferous debate between staunch atheists and fundamentalists in Bangladesh’s blogosphere and on social media for years, but it took a deadly turn in February when an atheist blogger was murdered.
The arrests came as Bangladesh has been hit by violent protests over a war crimes tribunal which is trying leading Islamists who opposed the country’s independence from Pakistan during the 1971 liberation war.
Islamists are stabbing and killing atheists. The government, instead of protecting atheists, harassing, threatening and arresting atheists. Atheists are treated as criminals in Bangladesh. It is a crime not to have a faith in Allah and Muhammad. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is protecting Allah and Muhammad from atheists. It means she believes that she is more powerful than Allah and Muhammad and Allah and Muhammad are too weak and vulnerable and unable to protect themselves. So it is her duty to protect them. What a blasphemy!