In September 2020, AKM Wahiduzzaman, an assistant professor of geography at the National University of Bangladesh, was dismissed for alleged Facebook posts published in 2013 about the country’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her family.
A leader of a local group supportive of the ruling party filed a complaint about the alleged posts, which, according to Human Rights Watch, questioned the capabilities of the prime minister and her children, criticized the organization of an upcoming election, and suggested that relatives of the prime minister collaborated with the Pakistani military during the Liberation War of 1971. Wahiduzzaman, a critic of the government, told HRW that he did not author the posts and that they were published under a “fake account.” Shortly thereafter, Wahiduzzaman was arrested and held in custody for a month and suspended from his position.
In March 2014, he was charged under Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Act, for “publishing fake, obscene or defaming information in electronic form.” In May 2016, Wahiduzzaman fled the country fearing further persecution.
In a statement announcing the dismissal in September 2020, the university cited allegations of “negligence of duty,” “misconduct,” “absconding,” and “fraud.” According to a report from Amnesty International, Wahiduzzaman claimed that he was denied an opportunity to defend himself. Amnesty’s report noted that the dismissal violated the university’s “service rules,” which require “a stay on any penalty of the university if the issue is pending trial at the court.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of a scholar and reports of denied due process rights in connection with a scholars’ nonviolent expressive activity. University authorities should refrain from retaliating against or impeding nonviolent academic expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate individual, wrongful dismissals undermine academic freedom.