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There is no district without cybercrime cases. However, the least number of such cases have come from Rajbari and Chapainawabganj, only six each.

It was learnt from the accused in cybercrime cases that they have to spend anywhere between Tk 100,000 to Tk 500,000 to fight the cases. The state conducts the cases on behalf of the complainant.

It was learnt from the accused in cybercrime cases that they have to spend anywhere between Tk 100,000 to Tk 500,000 to fight the cases. The state conducts the cases on behalf of the complainant

Records show that in seven years, 757 cases were sent to the tribunal from Dhaka city and Dhaka district. The plaintiff, the defendant and the witnesses all have to come from various places of the country to Dhaka to take part in the trial proceedings. This entails time and money as well as physical and mental exertion. Given these circumstances, cyber tribunals were set up in another seven divisional towns of the country in April this year.

Public prosecutor (PP) of the Dhaka cyber tribunal Nazrul Islam told Prothom Alo a large percentage of the cybercrime cases filed in Dhaka are about damaging pictures and videos of women being spread on social media. Next comes objectionable comments, distorted images and videos of political leaders and activists including the head of government. Most of the cases outside of Dhaka are also basically filed for these two reasons.

The most cases coming to the tribunal from Dhaka city, totally 68, are from Ramna police station. After that, 37 come from Shahbagh police station, 36 from Tejgaon and 29 from Paltan. The least number of cases, seven, are from Demra police station.

When asked why the highest number of cases were at Ramna, the Ramna police station officer-in-charge (OC) Monirul Islam told Prothom Alo that cybercrime has increased much more than before and that is a reason why there are so many cases. Also, the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police are both under the Ramna police station. In many cases, the police are the complainants and that is why there are more cases in this police station.

Many cannot accept constructive criticism. As the cases are among ourselves, many have already been resolved
Kutub Uddin Chowdhury, General Secretary, Satkania upazila Awami League

The highest number of cases in Dhaka district is in Savar upazila, 23 in all. The least number is in Dohar, only one. A review of the records reveal that the cybercrimes in Savar and Ashulia include sexually explicit pictures and videos of women. For example, an 18-year-old girl from Rangamati would work at a garment factory in Ashulia. She was in a relationship with a young man also from Rangamati. He lured her with promises of marriage and at one point made videos of her on his mobile phone during sex and then posted those on the internet. The girl in January 2018 filed a case against the young man with Ashulia police station under the Digital Security Act. On 7 September that year, the police submitted a charge sheet against the young man to the Dhaka cyber tribunal. A witness in the case and relative of the girl told Prothom Alo, the boy spent three months in jail. Later both sides came to a compromise and the two got married. However, the case hasn’t been settled as yet.

When asked why so many cases have been lodged at the Savar police station, the OC Mainul Islam refused to comment. However, speaking about the high number of cybercrime cases in Savar and Ashulia police stations, Dhaka district superintendent of police Maruf Hossain Sardar told Prothom Alo that Savar and Ashulia were the most densely populated areas of Dhaka district. There are many garment factories there. The young factory workers use smart phones and internet. Their various personal conflicts spill out onto the cyber sphere. That is why cybercrime cases are more there.

Cybercrime in Chattogram

A total of 149 cybercrime cases have come from various police stations of Chattogram. A review of these cases coming from Chattogram to the Dhaka cyber tribunal show that 131 of the cases are under the controversial Section 57. The remaining 18 are under the Digital Security Act.

Satkania upazila Awami League general secretary Kutub Uddin Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that fake Facebook accounts are being opened here and false propaganda is being spread about the prime minister as well as party leaders and activists

The most cases in Chattogram district are from Satkania upazila, 16 in total. Several of the cases here have been filed under Section 57 against rivals in the same political party. Convener of Kanchana union Jubo League in the upazila, MD Salam filed a case in 2017 against the former president of the union Chhatra League, Monir Hossain, vice president Irfan Chowdhury and library affairs secretary Syed Ahmed. The plaintiff is a supporter of the local member of parliament Abu Reza Muhammad Nezamuddin Nadwi. The accused are supporters of the upazila Awami League president MA Motaleb and general secretary Kutub Uddin Chowdhury. The plaintiff brought charges against him of spreading false propaganda on Facebook. The police submitted the final report after investigations.

Prothom Alo’s Chattogram senior correspondent Gazi Firoz spoke to the local people on both sides about this case. Plaintiff MD Salam said, “I didn’t pursue the case anymore after the leaders told me not to do so. I heard the police’s final report has been submitted.”

Accused Irfan Chowdhury said, “All three of us were scared of being arrested in this case. We were even scared to appeal for bail as the cyber tribunal was in Dhaka and we feared being arrested on the way.”

He said the Satkania police nabbed the accused Monir Hossain, but the party leaders got him released. The matter was resolved through mediation of the leaders.

Local politicians said that Satkania has been a political stronghold of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir. In 2015, Abu Reza Muhammad Nadwi became the MP from Awami League. Prior to that, as Jamaat-Shibir were up against the wall with the war crimes trial and charges of sabotage, several of the followers joined the ruling party camp. This led to polarisation in local politics and increased Facebook postings.

People of the bigger cities are more conscious about political and economic issues. They react to various incidents which are taking place and express this. If this goes against any powerful persons, they file cases. And the cases are accepted indiscriminately
Shahdeen Malik, Supreme Court lawyer

When asked about the large number of cases in Satkania, upazila Awami League general secretary Kutub Uddin Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that fake Facebook accounts are being opened here and false propaganda is being spread about the prime minister as well as party leaders and activists. "The number of cases is much lower than the amount of false propaganda being spread because many are unwilling to be complainants."

About leaders and activists in his own party filing charges against each other, he said many cannot accept constructive criticism. As the cases are among ourselves, many have already been resolved.

The Satkania police station OC Anwar Hossain said, the complainants and the accused in the cases here are all political party supporters. There are not many cases regarding abuse of women or deception.

On 14 July, a case was filed under the Digital Security Act with Satkania police station against residents of Kanchana union of Satkania, Chattogram unit Chhatra League’s former president Mohammad Fakhruddin, 45, and resident of West Perola in ward no. 6 of Baralia union in Patia, member of the cultural affairs sub-committee of Awami League’s central committee, Mohammed Sajjad Hossain, 38. The case was filed against them by Satkania pourashava mayor and south district Swechchhasebok League president Mohammad Zubair for posting criticism on Facebook about the Awami League office secretary Biplob Barua and his brother Bidyut Barua.

Most of the cases in Chattogram city have been lodged at the Kotwali police station, 14 in all. A case was filed under the Digital Security Act on 20 April at this police station against the former VP of DUCSU Nurul Haq. The plaintiff in the case was the city Swechchhasebok League leader Aziz Misir. Nurul was accused of making corrosive and instigative remarks on Facebook Live, that hurt people’s religious sentiment.

Kotwali police station OC Nezam Uddin, speaking about the high number of cases, said that the court house, the jail, the city police office and other important offices of Chattogram were all in the Kotwali area. Large numbers of people come here every day. That is why this location is shown for many postings on Facebook and other electronic devices and that is why the number of cases here is higher too.

Chattogram district and session judge court’s public prosecutor AKM Sirajul Islam Chowdhury told Prothom Alo, most of the allegations in the cybercrime cases are about false propaganda spread on Facebook.

Outside of divisional towns and districts, the number of cybercrime cases is relatively high in Habiganj and Cumilla. Inquiries in the two districts reveal that there is a lot of political and group conflicts among the ruling quarters there. The Habiganj-3 MP Md Abu Zahir, commenting on the higher number of cybercrime cases in the district, told Prothom Alo over mobile phone of Monday that any aggrieved person will resort to the law if objectionable statements (against him) are made on Facebook.

The Habiganj district and session judge court’s public prosecutor Sirajul Huq Chowdhury told Prothom Alo, many in Habiganj post up objectionable remarks, writings and videos about the head of government and other important persons of Facebook. Cases care being lodged under the Digital Security Act against those indulging in such crime.

Prothom Alo’s Cumilla staff correspondent Gaziul Huq said, the charges brought about in most of the cybercrime cases in Cumilla are for remarks against political leaders and their friends and family, spreading pictures of women and hurting religious sentiment, by means of Facebook posts. The police speedily arrest the accused in such cases.

He also said former Chhatra League leader Ashiqur Rahman put up a Facebook status about the son-in-law of local MP AKM Bahauddin. The police filed charges against him under the Digital Security Act and he had to spend time in jail.

Political cases in Rajshahi too

Prothom Alo’s correspondent in Rajshahi, Shafiqul Islam, said in 2016 a case was filed under Section 57 of the ICT Act against Rajshahi University unit Biplobi Chhatra Maitri’s former general secretary Dilip Roy by the university unit Chhatra League’s acting president Rashedul Islam. The charges were that he had posted up a status against the prime minister, he added.

Dilip Roy was detained on 18 August morning that year and was shown arrested in the case later in the afternoon and sent to jail the next day. He was granted bail after almost three months. He spent around Tk 300,000 in tackling the case and he still has to appear in court.

Plaintiff Rashedul Islam told Prothom Alo that he hardly spent anything in the case as the state bore all the expenses.

Dilip Roy feels that not as much harm has been done to him in this case as to those who want to express themselves freely. He says these cases are filed against a handful of people to keep the greater part of the population in fear.

When asked about the matter, Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik told Prothom Alo, people of the bigger cities are more conscious about political and economic issues. They react to various incidents which are taking place and express this. If this goes against any powerful persons, they file cases. And the cases are accepted indiscriminately.

If there was full understanding of the defamation law (penal code 499), these cases wouldn’t be accepted, he added.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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