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BANGLADESH: Cartoon incident, Prothom Alo takes action against persons responsible

Authorities also seize copies of satire magazine that published controversial religious cartoons

The Daily Star
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Law enforcement agencies yesterday arrested daily Prothom Alo cartoonist Arifur Rahman for a cartoon "hurting religious sentiments" published in the daily's satire magazine Aalpin on Monday.

The government has also confiscated all copies of the Aalpin's 431st issue containing the cartoon titled "Naam" (name) on page six, a government press release said.

The press release also said Prothom Alo has already apologised and withdrawn the cartoon and dismissed an Aalpin sub-editor in this connection.

The government hopes everyone concerned with this unwarranted incident will exercise restraint and show sense of responsibility, said the press release.

Dhaka metropolitan detective police picked up Arif from his Uttara residence around 2:00pm and took him to their Minto Road office for questioning.

Arif was later handed over to Tejgaon police around 6:00pm.

Reacting to the incident, Law Adviser Mainul Hosein yesterday called a meeting of select Islamic experts led by Baitul Mukarram Khatib Maulana Obaidul Haque.

Mainul informed the experts that the cartoonist has already been arrested and Prothom Alo authorities have also promised to take action.

"There is a conspiracy to create a dangerous and unwanted situation," Mainul said, adding, "Everyone has to remain united against the conspiracy to destablise the country."

The meeting was attended by Home Secretary Abdul Karim, Information Secretary Didarul Anwar, Religious Affairs Secretary Atowar Rahman, Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ) Chairman Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini, IOJ Vice President Maulana Muhammad Mahiuddin, Secretary General Mufti Faizullah, Masjid Mission Secretary General Muhammad Khalilur Rahman al-Madani, Kamaluddin Zafri, among others.

At the meeting, the Islamic experts demanded that the Prothom Alo editor and publisher -- also the editor and publisher of The Daily Star -- surrender to the law enforcers. They urged the government to take legal action against those who are guilty.

The government ordered seizure of all copies of the Aalpin issue as it was banned for marketing, selling, reproduction or partial reproduction, publication or preservation for hurting the religious sentiment of the people of Bangladesh.

Prothom Alo statement

The daily Prothom Alo in a statement yesterday apologised for inadvertently publishing the cartoon, describing it as "impertinent" and "completely unacceptable".

The statement said the daily will no longer publish any written piece or cartoon by freelance cartoonist Arif. The Prothom Alo authority also assured that it will be extremely cautious to prevent similar incidents in future.

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