FIFA official bailed from Bangladeshi court | News | DW | 19.03.2019
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FIFA official bailed from Bangladeshi court

A court in Bangladesh has granted bail to a FIFA official accused of making derogatory comments about the country's leader. Mahfuza Akhter Kiron had accused the Bangladeshi PM of favoring cricket over football.

FIFA council member Mahfuza Akhter Kiron (pictured above) was granted bail until April 2 by a court in Bangladesh on Tuesday. Kiron was arrested on suspicion of defamation after saying Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed was neglecting soccer in the cricket-mad country.         

Mahfuza allegedly accused Hasina of having double standards for the country's football and cricket. "She [Hasina] rewards cricket for personal gain but ignores football," Mahfuza was reported to have said during a news conference last month.

Read more: Bangladesh: Beware of what you say 

It's not cricket

Mahfuza, 52, is receiving cancer treatment and was bailed on medical grounds, her lawyer said. He expected her to be released "in a day or two." 

A FIFA spokesperson told news agency AFP in an email that world football's governing body had "requested further details about the situation of Ms Mahfuza Akhter and are currently awaiting information from the Bangladesh football federation."

FIFA said it was "monitoring with concern and working closely with" the Asian Football Confederation in the case.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International called recently called Mahfuza's arrest the latest attack on freedom of expression in Bangladesh.

"Championing football is not a crime. Mahfuza Akter Kiron was merely exercising her right to freedom of expression by stating that the prime minister favored cricket over football," Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Read more: Why Bangladesh wants to 'silence' its civil society

Bangladesh ranked 146 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2018 World Press Freedom Index (DW/M. Mamun)

Bangladesh ranked 146 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2018 World Press Freedom Index

Muzzling free speech           

The Bangladeshi government has long been accused of cracking down on voices deemed critical of the ruling party and authorities. 

Late last year, the publisher of the English-language New Nation daily, Mainul Hosein, was arrested. Police said his detention was linked to a television talk show appearance where he called a journalist "characterless" for asking him if he represented the political opposition.

Derogatory comments

Abul Hasan Chowdhury Prince, who filed the case against Mahfuza, said her comments against Hasina were derogatory.

"I lodged the case as she made derogatory remarks against our sports-loving prime minister," he said. 

Bangladesh is the world's third-largest Muslim-majority nation. The country's government, which won a third straight term in December, denies freedom of speech is under attack in the country of 165 million people.

kw/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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