Status: On Trial
Shamsuzzoha Manik is a Bangladeshi translator, writer, editor, and publisher who was arrested on February 15, 2016 after a religious extremist group known as Khelefat Andolon (Caliphate Movement) warned of violent protests over one of his books, which they deemed to be offensive to Islam. The police shut down Manik’s stall at the Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka before arresting him at his offices and seizing copies of the offensive title, along with his computer, USB drives and mobile telephone. On October 31, 2016, Manik was released pending trial; he faces up to 14 years in prison. The most recent court date was January 31, 2017; Manik attended but there were no witnesses present. Read PEN America’s letter to the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington calling for charges against Shamsuzzoha Manik to be dropped HERE.
Shamsuzzoha Manik, founder of the now-defunct bangarashtra.net website for secular debate and owner of the publishing firm Ba-dwip Prokashoni, is a 74-year-old translator, publisher, and activist. At the annual Ekushey Boi Mela book fair in February 2016, held at the state-run Bangla Academy in Dhaka, he was arrested in connection with a book he edited and published, Islam Bitorko (Debate on Islam). Detractors point to a controversial chapter on sex, entitled “Muslim Manosher Jouna Bikriti” (“Sexual perversion of the Muslim mind”), which was deemed harmful to religious sentiments. Two of Manik’s associates were arrested as well: Fakir Taslim Uddin Kajal, the owner of the printing house where the book was printed, and Samsul Alam Chanchal, Manik’s brother and a writer.
The initial complaint about Islam Bitorko and Manik came from an Islamic fundamentalist group which expressed offense and threatened violent demonstrations at the book fair because of the book. In addition to shutting down Ba-dwip Prokashoni’s stall, police arrested Manik and seized copies of the book, along with several other titles.
Although Islam Bitorko is a printed book, all chapters of the book were published online; because of this, Manik is being charged under Section 57 (2) of the Information and Communication Technology Act, which allows for warrantless arrests and 14-year maximum sentences for online violations that range from hacking to specific kinds of online expression about individuals or religion that could be deemed defamatory or offensive. The case has since been transferred to the Cyber Tribunal of Bangladesh in Dhaka. Manik remained in pre-trial detention from his arrest until October 31, 2016, when he was released on bail. Manik is reportedly in poor health and under threat by Islamic fundamentalist and militant groups.
In February 2015, Bangladeshi-American secular blogger Avijit Roy was brutally murdered at the same book fair.
Read PEN America’s letter to the Bangladeshi Ambassador in Washington DC calling for Manik’s release here.