Saturday, October 3, 1998 Published at 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
World: South Asia
Bangladeshi writer fears for her life
Nasreen: My plight as bad as if Rushdie was in Iran
The controversial feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen, has appealed to the Bangladeshi Government to protect her from Islamic fundamentalists who she says want to kill her.
Miss Nasreen, who fled Bangladesh four years ago after a warrant was issued for her arrest, said she had returned because her mother was dying of cancer.
Last week a court in Dhaka re-ordered Miss Nasreen's arrest in a revival of the 1994 investigation which had lain dormant while she was in exile.
The case centres on her book Selected Column, which Moslem fundamentalists say is blasphemous, and a later work, Shame, which advocates sex outside marriage.
Like Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, Miss Nasreen is also the subject of a fatwa.
Islamic fundamentalists have offered a $2,500 bounty to anyone who kills her.
''I want to live in this country if the government provides me protection because they are demanding my death and the fundamentalists declare that if the government don't punish me they will kill me anyway.''
Miss Nasreen is urging democratic countries to put pressure on the Bangladeshi Government to protect her and to drop the charge of insulting Islamic religious feelings.
Nasreen: 'I need protection'
In an appeal headlined ''Help!'', published in the French newspaper Le Monde, she wrote: "In this desperate situation, with my mother sick, I need protection."
Miss Nasreen said thousands of fundamentalists had staged rallies in Dhaka over the past week demanding that she be hanged.
"They say that they will have to kill me themselves if the government does not arrest and hang me.''
But our correspondent David Chasan says there have only been small rallies in protest against her return - nothing on the scale of the protests four years ago.
This is partly perhaps because Bangladesh is still recovering from its worst floods in 100 years.
The arrests this week of three former ministers, accused of killing political leaders in jail in 1975, have also drawn public attention elsewhere.
'She is satan,' says fundamentalist
Police say they have been unable to find Miss Nasreen.
But the failure to arrest her has prompted speculation in Bangladeshi newspapers that the government is not really interested in prosecuting her and might even allow her to slip out of the country again.
Miss Nasreen said it was too dangerous for her to go to court and her lawyer would apply for bail.
But Moulana Fazlul Huq Amini, secretary-general of Islami Oikya Jote (Unity Alliance), has threatened to lay siege to Dhaka's Home Ministry building on Sunday if she has not been arrested by then.
"She is a Satan who dared to speak against Islam and its Prophet Mohammad," he said.
Bangladesh does not have a blasphemy law and police have not said what punishment Miss Nasreen might receive if convicted at trial.
With a fatwa hanging over her head her plight has been likened to Mr Rushdie's.
But in an interview with Britain's Independent newspaper she commented wryly: ''My situation is like Rushdie's would have been if he had been living in Iran.''