Call for release of Bangladesh teen girl jailed for blasphemy on Facebook

DHAKA, 25 Nov 2021:

Rights group Amnesty International today demanded an immediate release of teenage Bangladesh girl Dipti Rani Das, in detention for more than a year over alleged blasphemy.

Police arrested 17-year old Dipti on 28 Oct 2020, in northern Dinajpur district for a Facebook picture showing a woman holding the Islamic holy book Quran in between her thighs.

If convicted, the girl could face up to seven years in jail after police booked her under the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA) on charges of “hurting religious sentiment” and “advancing to deteriorate law and order”.

“You cannot be not concerned by such forms of punishment that seizes critical, formative years of a child’s life simply for a Facebook post,” Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner Saad Hammadi said in an urgent call to Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

“It shows how repressive laws like the Digital Security Act can effectively traumatise an individual. The state is the guardian of its people. Instead of providing protection, we have a teenage girl languishing at a correction facility for more than a year. Deepti Rani Das should be in school, not in detention.”

The human rights organisation called on the government to urgently repeal or substantially amend the 2018 DSA and end the crackdown on the right to freedom of expression online.

Bangladesh has imprisoned at least 433 people under the DSA as of July 2021 on allegations of publishing false and offensive information online, it said.

Amnesty said a high court bench granted Dipti bail on May 11 after a lower court denied it three times. However, an appeal by the local administration chief got a stay order on bail.

Amnesty also urged Bangladesh authorities to ensure the security of Dipti, her family, and other members of minority groups in Bangladesh from communal or politically motivated attacks.

Mob violence is not uncommon in Muslim-majority Bangladesh over actions allegedly causing hurt to religious sentiments.

At least six people lost their lives in violence when mobs ransacked over 100 Hindu temples in October after a social media post showed the Muslim holy book placed on the knee of an idol of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman.