Bangladesh arrests 8,000 opposition activists: report – World ReadingS


DHAKA: Bangladesh police have arrested nearly 8,000 opposition figures in a nationwide crackdown since officers dispersed a massive rally in the capital a week ago, according to a report published on Sunday.

The large-scale wave of detentions took place ahead of the general elections to be held in January.

The country’s main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and its allies have been holding huge rallies in recent months to demand that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign and allow a neutral government to oversee the elections.

Hasina has seen impressive growth in her 15-year rule but is accused of ruling the South Asian country with an iron fist.

The United States has imposed sanctions on some of the most senior police figures over widespread human rights violations.

More than 100,000 opposition supporters took part in a “major rally” last Saturday, during which a police officer was killed in clashes in central Dhaka.

Police have since launched a large-scale crackdown against the BNP, arresting thousands of activists and charging at least 162 of its senior leaders with murdering officers.

Prothom Alo, the country’s most read and respected newspaper, reported Sunday that at least 7,835 people were detained, according to reports from its reporters across the country.

National police spokesman Abir Siddique Shuvra could not give AFP the exact number of detentions but said those arrested were facing criminal charges and arrest warrants.

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“It is not possible to give an exact figure. The police continue their work routinely,” he said.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police had previously said it had arrested more than 2,100 people on violence charges since last Saturday.

According to BNP, those detained include Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the organization’s top official in Bangladesh, and its number two Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury.

On Sunday, the country’s Rapid Action Battalion arrested BNP vice president Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, a former home minister and air force chief.

The arrests came as the BNP imposed a new 48-hour nationwide transport blockade as part of new anti-government protests, bringing intercity bus and truck transport to a near halt. A fire department spokesman said at least 11 buses were set on fire over the weekend.

Police said at least four people, besides the officer, had died since last Saturday, while at least nine activists had died and more than 3,000 had been injured, according to the BNP.

The resurgent opposition has been staging protests against Hasina since September last year, even though her ailing leader, Khaleda Zia, has been under virtual house arrest since her release from prison after being convicted on corruption charges.

Hasina’s ruling Awami League dominates Bangladesh’s legislature and rules it like a watermark.

Security forces are accused of detaining tens of thousands of opposition activists, killing hundreds in extrajudicial clashes and eliminating hundreds of leaders and supporters.

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