03/21/2023, 17.40
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Police arrest more than 50 opposition members in Dhaka

Members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) were taken into custody at a club in the capital where they were set to take part in a “social programme” and have dinner. Local police filed a case against them under the country’s anti-terrorism law. The BNP announced that it will boycott the elections scheduled for January next year.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Police have arrested 54 members of the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP), Bangladesh’s main opposition party, on charges of anti-state activities and "sabotage".

This comes amid rising tensions between the government and BNP leaders over the past few months in the run-up to elections to be held in January next year.

BNP members from Munshiganj, a district in Dhaka Division, say they met at the Banani Club, in the capital, to take part in a “social programme” and have dinner.

Mustafizur Rahman, the officer in charge of the Banani police station, said a team from the Detective Branch raided the club around 11:30 pm (local time) on Sunday after receiving a tip-off that BNP men were planning "subversive activities”.

After the operation, the authorities filed a report against the BNP members under the anti-terrorism law; those arrested were remanded into custody for two days following an order by a Dhaka court.

One of the men held is Momin Ali, former president of the Sreenagar upazila (subdistrict) and a BNP candidate in the 2018 elections.

Kamruzzaman Ratan, secretary of the BNP chapter in Munshiganj, said that Momin Ali had organised the dinner for men who were set to go on pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

“If the government smells conspiracy or sabotage in every political activity and even in social programmes, then it can impose [a] ban on all political activities of the opposition parties,” Kamruzzaman said, adding that police targeted BNP men in Dhaka as well as other parts of the country.

Back in December, the government, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League, cracked down on opposition protests against the high cost of living and arrested hundreds of people who, among other things, were calling for Hasina's resignation and the creation of an interim government before the elections, concerned that the poll would be rigged by the country's Election Commission.

In 2018, Sheikh Hasina had Khaleda Zia, the main opposition leader, jailed on trumped-up corruption charges, and in November threatened to send her back to prison from her current house arrest.

Late last month, the government also shut down the main opposition newspaper, Dainik Dinkal, which earned it sharp criticism for trying to suppress press freedom from the BNP but also several international organisations.

After these events, officials from the BNP, which had boycotted the 2014 elections, and considers the 2018 elections – in which Sheikh Hasina won a fourth term – to have been rigged, told European Union representatives in Bangladesh that it would not participate in the next national elections.

The BNP and the Awami League have alternated in government since Bangladesh gained  independence in 1971.

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See also
More protests against Prime Minister Hasina after clashes with the police
31/07/2023 14:59
Elections begin in Bangladesh amid tight security
Still disagreement over electoral reform in Bangladesh
State of emergency lifted to pave the way for elections in Bangladesh
Leader of largest Islamic party arrested on corruption charges


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