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Bangladesh: Human Rights Groups urges authorities to release student Khadijatul Kubra

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Human Rights groups has demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Khadijatul Kubra, a university student who has been detained for over a year under the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA) in Bangladesh.

Khadijatul Kubra, a 19-year-old political science student at Jagannath University in Dhaka, was arrested on 27 August 2022 for hosting a webinar on campus politics for a social media page called “Humanity for Bangladesh” in November 2020. The webinar featured a former Bangladeshi army official who is now based in Canada and who made comments that were perceived to be critical of the Bangladeshi authorities.

She was charged with attempting to ‘deteriorate law and order’ and ‘defaming’ the prime minister, among other offenses, under the DSA, which has been widely criticized for being vague and repressive. She was denied bail several times and transferred to a ‘condemned cell’ reserved for death-row convicts earlier this year. She also reportedly developed medical problems, including kidney issues, while in custody.

On 10 July 2023, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court adjourned her bail hearing for four months, stating that she should be able to take responsibility for the views expressed on her talk show.

The DSA was enacted in 2018 and has been used to arrest hundreds of journalists, activists, academics, artists and others for expressing their opinions online. The law has been widely condemned by national and international human rights groups, media organizations and civil society groups as a tool to silence dissent and curb freedom of expression. In June 2023, the government announced that it would repeal the DSA and replace it with a new law that would be more compatible with human rights standards. However, the details of the new law have not been made public yet.


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