DHAKA (AFP) — An international press freedom body on Wednesday called for the immediate release of a Bangladesh cartoonist detained for allegedly insulting Muslims with a reference to the prophet Mohammed.
Reporters Without Borders appealed to the military-backed government to release Arifur Rahman, who was detained on Tuesday following the publication of his cartoon in a satirical weekly magazine.
The drawing showed a small boy adding the name Mohammed to the name of a cat.
"The play on words had no intention of attacking the Prophet. It was a joke about cultural custom," the Paris-based organisation said in a statement.
"The government should not yield to pressure from extremist leaders who are trying to politicise the case. Rahman should not be made a scapegoat. He must be freed."
Around 3,000 people from Muslim groups protested in central Dhaka on Wednesday against Rahman's work. Street demonstrations have been illegal here since a state of emergency was imposed in January.
The government earlier seized all copies of the magazine, which is published by the mass-circulated Bengali daily Prothom Alo.
It is the second time that the emergency government has been criticised by Reporters Without Borders.
Last month, it said the government's record had been "badly marred" by censorship and violence by security forces against journalists during a spate of unrest.
Bangladesh, with a population of 144 million, is the world's third-largest Muslim-majority country.
It has been under emergency rule since January 11, after elections were cancelled over vote-rigging allegations and the military-backed government took power.
The government has pledged to hold fresh polls by late 2008 after carrying out wide-ranging reforms to clean up the nation's corruption-riddled politics.
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