Policemen and army personnel stop a motorist at checkpoint along a road during a government imposed shutdown as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Narayanganj on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 8, 2020. (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP) (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Bangladesh lecturer charged over Facebook virus post

A Bangladesh university lecturer has been charged under controversial digital security laws for allegedly mocking an ex-health minister who died of coronavirus, the latest in a string of arrests over social media posts about the epidcemic.

The detention late Saturday of Sirajum Munira, 28, came after former health minister Mohammad Nasim died of the virus.

There is growing concern about the spread of the virus across the impoverished country, which has been re-opening after a lockdown despite rising new cases.

Activists say internet laws are being used to suppress criticism of the government’s handling the epidemic.

“She posted a derogatory comment on the death of Mohammad Nasim. She mocked a dead person,” local police chief Rabiul Islam told AFP.

“It went viral and created negative reactions and undermined the image of the country.”

Munira, a lecturer at northern Begum Rokeya University, later apologised and deleted her comments after posting them on Facebook.

At least 44 people have been arrested and charged since March under internet laws for allegedly spreading rumour and propaganda.

The virus has claimed the lives of a swathe of prominent Bangladeshis, including business tycoons, bureaucrats and senior doctors.

On Saturday Sheikh Abdullah, the state minister for religious affairs and a close ally of the prime minister, died of the virus after being admitted to a military hospital.

Frontline workers including police officers have also been hit by the pandemic.

Two ministers in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet, as well as five members of parliament, have also been infected, a minister told AFP.

Since the South Asian country reported its first case in early March, the number of infections has risen to more than 87,000 with over 1,100 deaths.