Bangladesh lecturer charged over Facebook post that mocked ex-minister's death from coronavirus

A guard of honour paying tribute to former Bangladesh health minister Mohammad Nasim during the burial ceremony in Dhaka on June 14, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (AFP) - A Bangladeshi university lecturer has been charged under controversial digital security laws for allegedly mocking a former health minister who died of coronavirus, the latest in a string of arrests over social media posts about the epidemic.

The detention on late Saturday (June 13) of Sirajum Munira, 28, came after former health minister Mohammad Nasim died of the virus.

There is growing concern about the spread of the virus across the impoverished country, which has been reopening after a lockdown despite rising new cases.

Activists say Internet laws are being used to suppress criticism of the government's handling the epidemic.

"She posted a derogatory comment on the death of Mohammad Nasim. She mocked a dead person," local police chief Rabiul Islam said.

"It went viral and created negative reactions and undermined the image of the country."

Munira, a lecturer at northern Begum Rokeya University, later apologised and deleted her comments after posting them on Facebook.

At least 44 people have been arrested and charged since March under Internet laws for allegedly spreading rumour and propaganda.

The virus has claimed the lives of a swathe of prominent Bangladeshis, including business tycoons, bureaucrats and senior doctors.

On Saturday, Mr Sheikh Abdullah, the state minister for religious affairs and a close ally of the prime minister, died of the virus after being admitted to a military hospital.

Front-line workers, including police officers, have also been hit by the pandemic.

Two ministers in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Cabinet, as well as five Members of Parliament, have also been infected, a minister told AFP.

Since the South Asian country reported its first case in early March, the number of infections has risen to more than 87,000, with over 1,100 deaths.

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