Bangladeshi Man Receives 7 Years in Jail for "Insulting" Prophet Muhammad

A Bangladeshi man is currently facing a seven-year prison sentence for sharing an allegedly blasphemous post on Facebook back in 2017.

Sylhet Cyber Tribunal Judge Abul Kashem handed the sentence to Rakesh Roy on the afternoon of January 3rd. Roy is a Bangladeshi Hindu and an organizing secretary of Jatiya Hindu Mohajote, a Hindu group operating in the Muslim-majority country.

Aside from the lengthy prison sentence, Roy was also given a hefty fine of Taka 1 Lakh or 100,000 Bangladeshi taka.

Roy was arrested in June 2017 after Fujayel Ahmed, an Islamic extremist, filed a case against him under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act of 2006, now known as the Digital Security Act, at the Zakiganj Police Station in Sylhet. Ahmed accused Roy of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in his complaint.

Suggayan Chakma, Sylhet’s Additional Police Superintendent, said in 2017 that a screenshot of Roy’s Facebook post allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad was widely shared, which subsequently led to protests calling for his arrest. The acting public prosecutor of the Cyber Tribunal, Mostafa Delwar Al Azhar, also confirmed the matter.

Although the court sentenced him based on his guilt being proven by forensic evidence and witness testimony, Rakesh Roy vehemently denied these accusations. He said someone framed him by creating a fake Facebook account and sharing the offensive post with the public.

According to Roy, the blasphemous post was made by a vested group after he objected to an extremist named Abdul Aziz planning to convert Hindus to Islam in Zakiganj.

Ishtiaq Ahmed Chaudhary, Roy’s legal counsel, was disappointed with the verdict and said he would appeal to the higher court.

Before Roy was sentenced to prison, his case was noted after a petition filed by Sitangshu Guha, a Bangladeshi American, to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking his release.

Guha claimed in the petition that Roy was protecting the rights of Hindus in Zakiganj from Abdul Aziz. He also said a plan to frame Roy of blasphemy after Abdul Aziz's arrest was hatched as retaliation.

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