Cartoonist released in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh - A cartoonist in Bangladesh who was jailed after the government said his drawings were insulting to Muslims has been released, prison officials say.

The country's Deputy Inspector General of prisons, Maj Shamsul Haider Siddiqui, said that Arifur Rahman was released on the orders of a court.

He said that the police official bringing charges against him repeatedly failed to appear in court.

Mr Rahman is a former cartoonist for the Bengali-language daily Prothom Alo.

Last year Bangladesh's home minister said that Mr Rahman had hurt the sentiments of the people.

Prothom Alo apologised for the drawings and sacked him.

Islam is Bangladesh's state religion and past governments have banned publications for insulting Muslims.

The country's religious traditions are moderate but some people believe conservatives are becoming more influential.


Police arrested Mr Rahman following complaints by the head cleric of Dhaka's main mosque.

The cartoon featured a conversation between a mullah and a child and ended with a joke about the Prophet Mohammed's name.

Mr Rahman was jailed under Bangladesh's emergency laws.

These give the authorities powers to hold people without charge if they are deemed to threaten national security.

The government's information minister said the cartoons were part of a conspiracy to throw the country in chaos, but a senior editor of the newspaper said the cartoons had been published by mistake.