DHAKA: Police in Bangladesh on Friday baton charged and fired tear gas at hundreds of students demonstrating in the capital after a prominent writer and government critic died in jail. At least 10 people suffered minor injuries in the clashes with police, a witness said, amid growing demands for an independent investigation into the death of Mushtaq Ahmed.
An AFP correspondent saw police lashing out with batons and firing tear gas rounds at students calling for "justice" near Dhaka University. Ahmed was detained in May under a tough digital security act that opponents say undermines freedom of speech after he criticised the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 53-year-old, a crocodile farmer as well as a writer, was charged with spreading rumours and conducting "anti-state activities" on Facebook. Jail authorities said Ahmed died on Thursday after passing out at a high-security jail outside of Dhaka.
He had not been suffering from a major illness, according to prison chief Mohammad Ghiasuddin. Ahmed's lawyer demanded an independent inquiry into the death. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has also called for "a swift, transparent, and independent investigation".
Ahmed's prosecution under the Digital Security Act was an example of the "worst form of repression", said Saad Hammadi of Amnesty International. "No one should have to die solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression," he added.
Around 2,000 cases have been filed under the law since it was enacted in 2018, according to Amnesty. Many leading editors and senior journalists have been targeted for prosecution under the law.