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Bangladesh's "unjustifiable" decision to send blogger back to prison

UPDATE from Reporters Without Borders: Blogger granted bail on health grounds (7 August 2013)

Asif Mohiuddin, an atheist blogger who was freed on bail on 27 June 2013 after three months in pre-trial detention, was returned to prison on 29 July 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, 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.

Mohiuddin was the target of a murder attempt on 14 January. A month later, on 15 February, another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was found dead on a Dhaka street with his throat cut.

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