Female official faces defamation charges for accusing Bangladesh Prime Minister of favouring cricket over football.
The Bangladeshi authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the international football governing body FIFA council member Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, who faces two years behind bars simply for exercising her right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International has said.
Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, who is also chair of the women’s wing of the Bangladesh Football Federation, was arrested at her home in Dhaka’s Dhanmodi neighbourhood on Saturday.
She is facing defamation charges for accusing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of favouring cricket over football and has been denied bail by a Dhaka court.
Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International South Asia Campaigner, said: “Championing football is not a crime. Mahfuza Akhter Kiron was merely exercising her right to freedom of expression by stating that the Prime Minister favoured cricket over football.
“If the implications of a defamation case were not so serious, it would be laughable. Mahfuza Akther Kiron must be released immediately and unconditionally.
“The crackdown on freedom of expression is one of the main reasons why Bangladesh’s image has been tainted globally. As long as these arrests continue, and as long as these repressive laws remain in force, Bangladesh will be unable to claim its place as a rising economy that upholds human rights.”
If she is found guilty, Mahfuza Akther Kiron could be sentenced to a maximum of two years under Bangladesh’s Penal Code.