Bangladesh police chief's blogger warning sparks uproar


Secular activists expressed outrage on Monday after Bangladesh's national police chief warned bloggers that they faced jail for posting material deemed offensive following last week's machete murder of a secular writer.

Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque warned bloggers in the officially secular but Muslim-majority country against hurting religious sentiments. "No one should cross the limit," Hoque said on Sunday in comments to reporters carried in major newspapers on Monday. "And for hurting someone's religious sentiment, the person will be punished by the law," Hoque said, adding that the maximum punishment is 14 years in jail.

A gang armed with machetes hacked to death Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, at his home on Friday, the fourth such murder in Bangladesh this year.

Activists accused the police chief of siding with the killers instead of better protecting bloggers who were living in fear. "I really want to ask the police chief: how could he justify murder, being in a position of a top law enforcer?" blogger Imran H. Sarker told AFP. "Such comments go straight in favour of the killers," Sarker said.

Berlin-based atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin voiced outrage in a post on Facebook, saying the government's only action so far has been to threaten to "punish the freethinker bloggers with 14 years imprisonment".

An online petition was also launched by an unknown group seeking Hoque's resignation, saying the comments sent "a disastrous message to both writers and Islamist extremists in Bangladesh".

The government has been criticised for failing to protect secular bloggers, many of whom have gone into hiding since the first attack, while some have fled the country.    (AFP)

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