Bangladesh Court Grants Teen Bail After 16 Months for Allegedly Insulting Quran

Sharif Khiam
2022.02.17
Dhaka
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Bangladesh Court Grants Teen Bail After 16 Months for Allegedly Insulting Quran Journalists hold placards as they protest the then-newly passed Digital Security Act, in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka, Oct. 11, 2018.
[Reuters]

Bangladesh’s High Court on Thursday ordered the release on bail of a teenager who was in custody for nearly 16 months for allegedly desecrating the Quran via a Facebook post.

Dipti Rani Das, who is from the minority Hindu community, was jailed on charges of violating the country’s draconian online security act by allegedly hurting religious sentiment in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

“She will be released after the order reaches the women and children corrections center in northern Rajshahi district with due process. It may take another week,” lawyer Nina Guswami, a director at Ain-O-Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights organization helping Dipti with legal support, told BenarNews

Dipti, who is now 18, is incarcerated at a women’s correctional center in Rajshahi, which is 247 km (153 miles) from Dhaka, where the High Court is located.

Dipti’s father, Dilip Kumar Das, was overjoyed.

“We could smile today after 16 months; the whole family is awaiting her hug on her release,” he told BenarNews.

Police arrested Dipti in October 2020 in northern Dinajpur after a Digital Security Act case was filed over a photo she allegedly posted showing a woman with a Quran placed between her thighs.

Dilip Kumar denied that his daughter had posted anything about Islam’s holy book and said her Facebook account had been hacked.

The teenager was granted bail on Thursday on her sixth attempt. She was denied bail four times by a lower court. On her fifth attempt, the High Court granted her bail but a police officer appealed against her release before the Supreme Court, which then halted the bail order.

On Thursday, she was granted bail on a fresh petition before the High Court.

Passed in 2018, the Digital Security Act punishes those who produce or distribute content that “hurts religious sentiments or religious values” or “destroys communal harmony, or creates unrest or disorder” with up to 10 years in prison.

It empowers police to make arrests on suspicion and without a warrant. Fourteen of its 20 provisions do not allow for bail, so when those accused are brought before a magistrate, they almost automatically are sent to jail.

In November, human rights watchdog Amnesty International urged the Bangladeshi government to release Dipti “and all those detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Police claim teen is guilty

Meanwhile, police said in their chargesheet submitted to the court that their investigation found that Dipti had offended under the Digital Security Act.

“Three allegations brought against her under the Digital Security Act are primarily proved,” the police investigation report said.

“She posted a caricature of the Quran …. She intentionally instigated devout Muslims with a view to damaging religious harmony in the country,” the police report added. 

The case against Dipti has now been transferred to the cyber tribunal in Rangpur for trial.

“A hearing on the chargesheet will be held on March 13,” Ruhul Amin Talukder, acting public prosecutor at the Rangpur court, told BenarNews.

Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), a human rights organization, will provide Dipti legal assistance in the case.

“The case was supposed to be forwarded to a juvenile court. Instead, it has been forwarded to the cyber tribunal,” Dilruba Rahman Ankhi, a lawyer at BLAST in Rangpur, told BenarNews.

“The investigation report of police had described Dipti as a ‘child involved in the conflict.’ Now the judge of the tribunal will decide in which court the case will be tried.”

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