Amid criticism against govt’s curb on free speech, cartoonist Kishore narrates custodial torture on him by RAB

Bangladesh cartoonist

Many believe Bangladesh is facing a newly restrictive era for free expression. The debate has gained momentum recently over government’s alleged curb on freedom of expression.

On Wednesday, cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore filed a complaint with a Dhaka court and alleged that he was tortured physically and mentally in custody after he had been picked up by people in plainclothes.

According to reports, Kishore filed the complaint under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013 and narrated before the Dhaka Senior Special Judge’s Court in details about the torture on him on Wednesday.

Kishore’s lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said judge KM Imrul Kayes received the statement of the plaintiff and said that he would give an order in a day or two.

Kishore’s statement was the first instance in Bangladesh where the  victim narrated in details before a court about custodial tortures on him, Barua said.

Kishore was released from jail on bail on March 4, ten months into his detention following his arrest in a case filed against him and 10 others under the Digital Security Act with the capital’s Ramna police station in early May 2020 for criticising the government.

Another co-accused and writer Mushtaq Ahmed died in jail on February 25 after he had been denied bail for six times in the DSA case.

Kishore was picked up by 16-17 people in plainclothes from his home at Kakrail on May 2, 2020 and blindfolded before being taken to a damp room.

The people took possession of his mobile phone and other digital devices from his home, he said in a complaint.

The cartoonist told the court that he was asked about the meaning of his cartoons, showing him one after another by a projector during the detention.

He was asked to justify the reasons of his drawing those caricatures and what they represent.

  The cartoonist alleged that one of the interrogators suddenly slapped Kishore at his ear very hard.

For a few minutes, Kishore was dazed and later realised his ear was bleeding.

The cartoonist further alleged that he fell unconscious as interrogators started hitting his legs with steel-plated sticks.

Thereafter, Kishore discovered him at the Rapid Action Battalion office on May 5, 2020, three days after he had been picked up and he also noticed writer Mushtaq there.

Barua said the court might ask the police to investigate Kishore’s complaint and file report as soon as possible.

Before Kishore appeared before the special judge’s court on Wednesday, he and two other accused in the case, Rastrachinta organiser Didarul Islam Bhuiyan and former Dhaka Stock Exchange director Minhaz Mannan Emon, earlier in the day had appeared before the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court.

Didarul and Minhaz are now free on bail while writer Mushtaq died on February 25 in Gazipur’s Kashimpur High-Security Jail.

The Rapid Action Battalion filed the case naming the 11 people on May 6, 2020 and on January 15, the Ramna police submitted the charge-sheet naming Mushtaq, Kishore and Didarul, dropping the names of Minhaz as well as Netra News editor Tasneem Khalil, US-based journalist Shahed Alam, Saer Zulkarnain, admin of I am Bangladeshi Facebook’s Page and Germany-based blogger Asif Mohiuddin. 

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