Bangladesh lecturer charged over coronavirus Facebook post

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

The arrest late on Saturday of Sirajum Munira, 28, came after former Minister of Health and Family Mohammad Nasim died of the virus.

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

Activists say internet laws are being used to suppress criticism of the government’s handling the coronavirus pandemic.

“She posted a derogatory comment on the death of Mohammad Nasim. She mocked a dead person,” local police chief Rabiul Islam told the AFP news agency.

“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 rumours and propaganda.

The virus has killed many prominent Bangladeshis, including business tycoons, bureaucrats and senior doctors.

On Saturday, Sheikh Abdullah, the state minister for religious affairs and a close ally of the prime minister, died of complications related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, 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 at least 1,100 deaths.

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