Bangladesh student faces sedition charges over Facebook post

A Bangladeshi student faces sedition charges after he allegedly posted comments on Facebook linking the nation's premier with the disappearance of an opposition leader, police said on Sunday.

Sohel Molla, alias Sohel Rana, was arrested last month after being beaten up by supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University at Trishal, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Dhaka.

"Some students became angry after they saw his remarks on Facebook where he said opposition leader Ilias Ali had no chance for freedom because he was caught by Sheikh Hasina," Trishal police chief Firoz Talukdar said.

Ali, a regional head of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has been missing since mid-April. The BNP has accused state security forces over the disappearance - a charge denied by the government and the forces.

"He wrote that Ali would have been freed had he been caught by a jungle tiger. But this jungle tiger is Sheikh Hasina," Talukdar said, adding that if found guilty under sedition charges Molla could face a maximum life sentence.

Talukdar said police had sought the home ministry's permission to charge the 21-year-old English literature student. "We've completed our investigation and found that his Facebook remarks are seditious," he said.

Home minister Sahara Khatun told Bengali daily Prothom Alo the student would be charged with sedition.

"We have decided to press sedition charges against him. In future, whoever is found making such indecent and bad remarks against the prime minister will face sedition charges," she said.

Molla is the second student to be arrested over alleged postings on Facebook this year. In January police detained Al Nayeem Jubaer, 19, from his village west of Dhaka, for posting obscene remarks about Hasina's father on the social networking site.

Also that month a 29-year-old Bangladeshi was sentenced in absentia to six months in jail after posting a Facebook message that appeared to wish for the prime minister to die in a car accident.

Ruhul Khandaker, who has been studying in Australia since 2009, will also be prosecuted for sedition and the courts have asked the foreign ministry to bring him back to the country.

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