Bangladesh detains students for 'defaming Prophet'

DHAKA (AFP) - Two students were detained in Bangladesh's port city of Chittagong after they were attacked by a mob over allegations they defamed the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook, police said on Tuesday.

Police filed primary charges against the two 18-year-olds under the country's Information Communications Technology (ICT) laws after investigators found anti-religious comments on their Facebook pages, local police chief Atiq Ahmed Chowdhury told AFP.

"Our officers rescued them from a mob of angry students who were beating them in a Chittagong college on Sunday," he said.

A court remanded the two accused in custody after rejecting their application for bail, Chowdhury added.

Deputy commissioner of of Chittagong police Rezaul Masud told AFP the two could face a maximum 14 years in jail and a fine of around 10 million taka (S$160,000) if they were found guilty under the controversial Article 57 of the ICT laws.

Defence lawyer Abu Bakar Siddique Azim told the Dhaka Tribune daily that his clients denied the accusations and had not "made any kind of public writings that goes against anyone's religious belief".

Muslim-majority Bangladesh is officially secular, but the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has used Article 57 to crack down on dissent and anti-religious bloggers.

Last year four bloggers were arrested and were detained for months after they were accused of making anti-Islam comments. An editor of a pro-opposition daily and two leading human rights defenders were also detained using the same law.

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