Ruhul Amin Gazi, chief reporter for The Daily Sangram, a Bangla-language newspaper, was arrested on October 21, 2020, on accusations of sedition after his paper published an article praising an executed opposition leader.
Police officers in the Hatirjheel neighborhood of Dhaka arrested Gazi after Debdash Chandra Adhikary, the metropolitan magistrate, rejected the journalist’s bail petition in a criminal investigation, according to news reports.
The investigation stemmed from a December 13, 2019, complaint and report filed to the police by Afzal Hossain, head of a local association of veterans of Bangladesh’s war of independence, which alleged that Gazi, Daily Sangram editor Abul Asad, and news editor Sadaf Hussein had committed sedition, according to Shishir Monir, Gazi’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
The complaint alleged that a December 12, 2019, Daily Sangram story marking the anniversary of the 2013 execution of opposition leader Abdul Quader Molla, and calling him a “martyr,” constituted sedition and violated the Digital Security Act, according to news reports.
Quader Molla was a member of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, and was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bangladesh’s war of independence against Pakistan, according to those reports. According to the BBC, The Daily Sangram is run in part by the Jamaat-e-Islami party.
In response to the complaint, on January 15, 2020, the Bangladesh High Court granted Gazi bail pending authorities’ investigation, according to Monir. He was then arrested in October after he allegedly failed to attend numerous court hearings, according to the Dhaka Tribune.
However, Monir said that the arrest was prompted by the police investigation into the December 13, 2019, report filed by Hossain, which was only publicly disclosed after Gazi’s October arrest.
If charged and convicted of sedition under Section 124A of the penal code, Gazi could face up to life in prison; if convicted under the Digital Security Act, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine.
Gazi is being held at the Kashimpur Central Jail, and suffers from diabetes and heart disease, Monir said, adding that he had received medicine for those conditions through his family members.
In January 2021, after the Dhaka High Court granted Gazi’s bail, authorities filed a petition in the appellate division of the Supreme Court to block that order, which the court granted, according to a Dhaka-based academic familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal by authorities.
Md. Shafiqul Islam, commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, the department handling the investigation, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment in late 2021.