Christian poet in Bangladesh arrested for 'defamatory' writings

Wednesday 22nd May 2019 05:54 EDT

Dhaka: Prominent poet Henry Sawpon was arrested by the police in southern Bangladesh after he was accused of hurting the religious feelings of the country's minority Christian community. A Christian himself, Henry was taken into custody after a priest filed a case against him for series of defamatory writings about the clergy. The arrests were based on charges such as "hurting religious sentiment" or undermining "law and order." Sources said Sawpon was arrested under the country's digital security law for hurting religious sentiments of the Christian community.

Sawpon writes poems and rhymes for leading Bangladesh newspapers and magazines. He was sent to jail after a court rejected his bail application. As per police, Sawpon had posted derogatory remarks against Catholic fathers on his Facebook profile since 2016. He also accused the city's Bishop of embezzling funds. He is being investigated for allegedly violating Bangladesh's already stringent internet laws enacted in 2006.

Days before his arrest, Sawpon told local media that two unidentified men entered his home after midnight and threatened to kill him if he did not stop writing against his community. If found guilty, the poet faces a maximum 14 years in jail under the controversial digital security law which has been slammed as "draconian" by media rights groups in Bangladesh and abroad. Rights groups expressed concern that the law would be used to curb freedom of expression and a crackdown on dissent.

Christians make up less than one per cent of Bangladesh's 165 million people. They have lived for centuries mostly in harmony with the local Muslim majority and have played a prominent role in the country's history. Even today, schools and hospitals run by Catholic missionaries are a blessing for poor communities.

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