12:00 AM, August 18, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:57 AM, August 18, 2018

Businesswoman held, remanded

Sued under Sec 57 for 'spreading rumours, sharing provocative posts' on Facebook

Faria Mahjabin

Rab has arrested a woman entrepreneur in a case filed under the controversial section 57 of the ICT Act for “spreading rumours and sharing provocative posts” on social media over the recent student protest.

A Dhaka court placed her on three-day remand yesterday.

Faria Mahjabin, 28, owner of Nerdy Bean Coffee Haus in Dhanmondi, was picked up by a Rab-2 team from her home in Hazaribagh area around 10:45pm on Thursday, said Senior ASP Mizanur Rahman, assistant director (media and legal wing) of the force.

Two persons, including Faria, were accused in the case filed with Hazaribagh Police Station, sources at the police station said, without disclosing the name of the other accused.

Since the student demonstration for road safety measures began on July 29 bringing Dhaka to a standstill, more than 100 people, mostly students, have been rounded up in 53 cases in the capital alone over “causing violence and spreading rumours”, according to Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

Yesterday afternoon, Sub-inspector Majedul Islam of Hazaribagh Police Station produced Faria before Metropolitan Magistrate AKM Mainuddin Siddiqui with a seven-day remand prayer. The magistrate placed her on three-day remand.

No lawyers appeared on her behalf.

According to Rab, Faria, who had expressed solidarity with the student movement, shared some “provocative and false contents” on Facebook for “diverting the demonstration to a different direction and deteriorating law and order”.

Rab, however, did not specifically say what those contents were.

“Even after the government agreed to accept the demands of the protesters, Faria and her aides continued to try to create unrest,” Rab said in a press release yesterday.

Members of the force seized Faria's mobile phone, collected a printout of her Facebook profile and recovered an “audio clip” during the arrest, according to the release.

The other accused in the case has been shown fugitive.

This correspondent visited Faria's home on Haji Afsar Uddin Road for comments but none of her family members was there. Asked, the caretaker said they were outside.

Contacted over phone, Faria's husband Mohammad Reasat said he was not in a position to make any comment on the matter.

Hailing from Khulna, Faria did her graduation in computer science and engineering from North Western University in the district.

With Faria, at least 26 people have been arrested under the section 57 of the ICT Act on charges of spreading rumours, propaganda and fake news centring the nationwide student movement.

They were shown arrested in 12 cases -- nine filed with different police stations in Dhaka and one each with police stations in Chittagong, Sirajganj and Bogra.

Noted photographer Shahidul Alam is among the arrestees. He is now in jail.

Police said they have gathered details about a hundred social media accounts which “incited violence” centring the movement.

Another 81 people, including 22 private university students, were arrested in 43 cases filed under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Special Powers Act over violence during the road safety protest.

The 22 students have been repeatedly denied bail by courts.

Rab members picked up Faria Mahjabin, owner of Nerdy Bean Coffee Haus in Dhanmondi, from Dhaka’s Paschim (West) Dhanmondi area for allegedly trying to create unrest by spreading rumours on social media during the recent student protests for safe roads. The photo is taken from Rab-2 office on Friday, August 17, 2018. Photo: Collected

Apart from all these arrestees, many road safety and quota reform protesters were detained, interrogated and then released upon taking undertakings.

On July 29, school and college students began an unprecedented movement demanding concrete government steps to improve road safety measures following the deaths of two of their peers in a road crash in the capital.

Since then, students took to the streets for eight days in a row -- blockading streets for hours -- before things rolled over to violence.

The protesters came under attacks by the police and alleged ruling party activists on August 4 and 5.

The government and the ruling Awami League claim some vested quarters tried to capitalise on the student protests and create unrest by spreading rumours.

However, police have failed to arrest any of those who beat up and injured dozens of students and journalists during the movement.

Victims and eyewitnesses said the attackers belong to the ruling Awami League and its affiliated organisations, including Chhatra League -- something the AL has denied.   

In many cases, such attacks happened in front of the police, as seen in videos and photos published in the media. In other cases, police and the attackers, some wearing helmets and carrying sticks, metal bars and machetes, were seen launching joint attacks on the protesters.