CHANGES DECK, LEADS WITH ARREST OF TWO MORE SENIOR LEADERS OF MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY, FURTHER DETAILS
By SM Najmus Sakib
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - The political situation in Bangladesh became more volatile early Friday after police detained two more senior leaders of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The detective branch of the police picked up the party’s second in command, Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, and BNP Standing Committee member Mirza Abbas from their homes in the capital Dhaka, Sayrul Kabir Khan, a member of BNP’s media cell, confirmed to reporters.
Police filed five cases against the opposition BNP men and sued over 3,100 named and unnamed people Thursday.
Over 880 BNP leaders and activists were named while over 2,250 unnamed people were sued in the cases in Dhaka over clashes Wednesday with police, according to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, Clement Voule, Amnesty International, and the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas, expressed concern over the developing political violence in the country.
Voule said Thursday on Twitter that "Bangladesh authorities must guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and refrain from using excessive force against protesters.”
He said the UN has been following events in Bangladesh closely "after concerning reports of attacks and lethal force against peaceful protests since July 2022, causing deaths."
Amnesty International in a statement Thursday said the authorities must end repression of demonstrations.
“This incident shows that the Bangladesh authorities have very little regard for the sanctity of human life and sends a chilling message that those who dare to exercise their human rights will face dire consequences,” said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for South Asia.
The US embassy in Bangladesh in a statement Thursday expressed its condolences to the families of those killed and injured in the clashes.
“We encourage government authorities to investigate these reports of violence and to protect the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” it said.
At least one person was killed and dozens were injured in nearly two-hour-long clashes Wednesday between police and BNP activists from in Dhaka.
According to eyewitnesses, the clashes erupted when police attempted to reopen a road that had been blocked by hundreds of BNP activists gathered in front of the party's central office in the Nayapaltan neighborhood.
During the clashes, police fired several hundred tear gas shells and charged with batons, while opposition party activists pelted brick chips and stones at the law enforcers in retaliation.
Hundreds of opposition party leaders and activists had gathered in front of their party’s office ahead of Saturday's grand rally to press the government to reinstate the non-political caretaker government system three months before general elections, which are scheduled for December of next year.
A local court in Bangladesh sent some 445 opposition members to jail after police on Thursday produced them before the court while 29 others are being held for interrogation.
The police sued leaders and activists of the BNP before the court, claiming they attacked law enforcers during Wednesday’s hours-long clashes in the capital's Nayapaltan area, a senior police official, Arafatul Islam Khan, told Anadolu Agency.
The police were not allowing anyone to gather near the BNP office as of Thursday night.
Biplop Kumar Sarker, DMP joint commissioner (operations), told reporters that more cases would be filed in connection with Wednesday's incident and that they are treating the BNP office as a crime scene and it will not reopen until their investigation is completed.
Later at a press conference prior to being detained by police, Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir reiterated that a scheduled meeting would take place at the party's headquarters.
He claimed that the police had vandalized their office's furniture and valuables and seized documents. He also demanded an impartial investigation into the death of a member of his party, whom he alleged was killed by police.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters that at least 49 police officers were injured in clashes with the BNP activists Wednesday.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite unit of the Bangladesh police, remains on high alert due to an opposition rally scheduled for Dec. 10.
"RAB has beefed up its surveillance in the capital and its outskirts to maintain law and order as well as to thwart any anarchy and sabotage centering on the gathering," it said late Thursday in a press release.