More than 4,500 cases have been filed with the cyber tribunal since its formation in 2013, with the number of cases rising, but it has acquitted suspects in most of the cases.
Lawyers say the allegations are false in many cases while police are not skilled enough to prove the charges. Bangladesh had only one cybercrime tribunal, in Dhaka, until seven more were formed to cover all the divisions this year.
Records show 33 cases were filed with the tribunal in 2014 and the annual number rose gradually to 1,189 in 2019. People filed 1,128 cases amid the pandemic in 2020, and 447 until March this year.
Out of the total 4,675 cases, the accused have been convicted and sentenced in 21 cases, while the suspects have been acquitted in 114 others. In 124 other cases, the accused were acquitted during charge-framing.
The tribunal sentenced Moazzem Hossain, former OC of Sonagazi Police Station in Feni, in November 2019 for circulating madrasa student Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s video statement on social media. The girl was burnt alive for accusing the principal of sexual harassment.
It was the last significant verdict by the tribunal. The other important verdicts include the acquittal of hanged war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury’s wife Farhat Quader Chowdhury and son Hummam Quader Chowdhury in September 2015 in a case over leaking the war crimes verdict. Five others, including the lawyer for Salauddin, AKM Fakhrul Islam, were sentenced to different terms in prison.
In January last year, the tribunal acquitted the writer, publisher and printer of charges of hurting religious sentiments in a book, ‘Islam Bitorko’.
The accused were Ba-Dwip Prokason owner and editor of the book Shamsuzzoha Manik, his brother Shamsul Alam Chanchal, and Shabdokoli Printers owner Taslimuddin Kajol.
Only nine out of 17 state witnesses testified in the tribunal. The investigation officer, Inspector Zafar Ali Biswas, did not appear after the date was set 17 times.
One of the witnesses testified that the police had taken his signature during the seizure of the book, but he did not know the name of the book. Another witness said she did not sign the list of seized materials but was named as a witness.
The sub-inspector, who started the case, said he did not have enough knowledge about technology. “The verdict proved harassment was the only objective of the case,” writer Manik said after the verdict was out.