On August 15, 2018, Bangladeshi authorities reportedly arrested Lutfun Nahar Luma, Eden College sociology student, in apparent retaliation for her alleged comments on social media on widespread student protests in Bangladesh.
Luma is the Bangladesh General Student Council joint secretary and a leader in the quota reform movement. On August 5, authorities at Ramna police station filed a case against Luma, accusing her of violating section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act for allegedly spreading rumors on social media and instigating violence in connection with the national student movement for road safety. In addition to Luma, Bangladeshi authorities have reportedly detained at least 97 students and supporters—including renowned photojournalist and scholar Shahidul Alam—under section 57 of the ICT Act for allegedly sharing information about the protests on social media,.
On August 15, the cybercrime unit of the Bangladesh Police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit and Belkuchi police arrested Luma at her grandfather’s house in Khidrachapri, where she was hiding, and brought her to Dhaka for interrogation. The authorities also reportedly seized her mobile phones. On August 16, Luma was brought before court and placed on a three-day remand, which granted police three days to question her. On August 20, following the three-day remand, authorities sent Luma to jail. On August 27, she was granted bail and released. As of this report, the charges against Luma are pending and her next court date is unknown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the imprisonment and prosecution of a student in apparent retaliation against the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly—conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party. State authorities must refrain from restricting or otherwise interfering in the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.