New York, June 16, 2016 — The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes reports of the arrest of a suspected member of a banned Islamist group accused of participating in an October 2015 attack on a publishing house. The arrest of Mohammed Sumon Hossain came amid a broader sweep of thousands of suspected criminals across Bangladesh, according to press reports.
Hossain is suspected of participating in an October 2015 assault on the Dhaka offices of the Shuddhashar publishing house. In that attack, assailants held two men at gunpoint while others attacked the publisher, Ahmed Rahim Tutul, and writers Ranadeep Basu and Tareque Rahim, CPJ reported at the time. Shuddhashar had published secular writers as well as books by Bangladeshi-American writer Avijit Roy, who was murdered outside a book fair in Dhaka earlier last year. Tutul was eventually granted asylum in Norway, according to media reports.
Meanwhile, a 73-year-old publisher who has been jailed since he was arrested in February 2016 is still detained, despite continued calls for his release on bail, according to his lawyer, Parvez Hashem, who contacted CPJ by email.
Shamsuzzoha Manik, who owns the Ba-Dwip Prakashan publishing house, was arrested at the Bangladesh International Book Fair and charged under Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act, which criminalizes the criticism of religion. He faces up to 14 years in prison if found guilty, Hashem said. Manik also founded the now-defunct bangarashtra.net website for secular debate. He was arrested after extremists threatened violent reprisals unless authorities detained him over publications they deemed offensive to Islam.
“We welcome progress in the investigation into the attack on publisher Ahmed Rahmi Tutul, and hope for developments in the cases of other Bangladeshi publishers and journalists who have been assaulted or killed,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Program coordinator. “But Shamsuzzoha Manik must be freed immediately. Authorities cannot credibly counter violent attacks by extremists while at the same time appeasing extremists by jailing a publisher who caused them offense.”
Militant groups have repeatedly targeted Bangladeshi journalists, bloggers, and publishers in recent years. On April 25, Xulhaz Mannan, a senior editor at the gay rights magazine Roopbaan, and a friend were stabbed to death in Mannan’s Dhaka home, CPJ reported at the time. That attack followed the murders of four secular bloggers and a publisher by violent Islamist groups in 2015, according to CPJ research.