The doctors declared the the 53-year old dead on arrival when he was taken to Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College Hospital after falling unconscious at Kashimpur High Security Prison in Gazipur on Thursday night, said Senior Jail Superintendent Md Gias Uddin.
The writer had no reported ailment and the cause of his death was not immediately clear.
Hailing from Narayanganj’s Araihajar, Mushtaq was one of the entrepreneurs of crocodile farming in Bangladesh. He actively wrote about different issues on social media.
The Rapid Action Battalion arrested him at his home in Dhaka’s Lalmatia and cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore at Kakrail on May 5 last year amid the coronavirus crisis.
The duo, along with nine others, were charged with propagating disinformation against the government on social media.
“They both spread false information against the government and its coronavirus relief programmes on social media. They also made indecent remarks about Bangabandhu,” RAB-3 Company Commander Abu Zafar Mohammed Rahmatullah had said at the time.
SI Jamshedul Islam, who is investigating the case, had said Kishore had posted cartoons and posters on his Facebook account “Ami Kishore” criticising the government’s response to the coronavirus situation while Mushtaq shared several of them on his Facebook account.
In the case against them, the law enforcers also arrested Didarul Bhuiyan of Rashtrochinta, a group of political activists, and businessman Minhaz Mannan Emon.
Didarul and Mannan were later freed on bail, but the judge rejected several bail petitions of Mushtaq and Kishore while activists have demonstrated on several occasions demanding their release.
Mushtaq was sent to Dhaka Central Jail first and then transferred to the Kashimpur prison on Aug 24 last year.
The other accused in the case were Tasneem Khalil, the editor of Netra News living in Sweden, blogger Asif Mohiuddin who resides in Germany, journalist Shahed Alam who lives in the US, Zulkarnain Shayer Khan alias Sami who lives in Hungary and featured in a recent report of Al Jazeera, Ashiq Imran, Swapan Wahid, and Phillipp Schuhmacher.
The police dropped the charges against eight of them and sought to press formal charges against Mushtaq, Kishore and Didarul in the case.
The charges brought by the RAB in the case include running a disinformation campaign against Bangabandhu, the Liberation War and the pandemic to hurt the image of the government or state and create instability.
The RAB also claimed to have evidence that Mushtaq and Kishore had “conspired” with Tasneem, Zulkarnain, Shahed and Asif on WhatsApp and Messenger apps.