Bangladesh arrests Islamist party chiefs


WARRANT: Khaleda Zia
WARRANT: Khaleda Zia

NINE TARGETED BY POLICE OVER ‘SECRET MEETING’

POLICE in Bangladesh on Monday (9) night ar­rested the top leaders of the country’s largest Is­lamist party, an official said, as the government appeared to have launched a crackdown on the main opposition parties.

Nine people were arrested after a raid on a house in Dhaka’s northern neighbourhood of Ut­tara, including the top leader of the Jamaat-e-Isla­mi party, Maqbul Ahmed; deputy leader Shafiqur Rahman and former member of parliament Golam Parwar.

“We learnt from a secret source they were hold­ing a meeting at a secret place at a house in Uttara Sector Number Six. We have found some papers from that place,” Dhaka Police deputy commis­sioner Shaikh Nazmul Alam said, adding they were investigating the documents.

He did not say what the Jamaat leaders were ar­rested for, but that “most of them were fugitive”. Prothom Alo, the country’s largest newspaper, said the leaders were arrested on charges of sabotage.

The arrests came as the government appeared to have launched a crackdown on the opposition par­ties after it was criticised for its handling of the Roh­ingya crisis, which has seen a massive influx of refu­gees fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar.

Earlier in the day, a court in the country’s east issued an arrest warrant against main opposition leader Khaleda Zia after she failed to appear at a hearing over charges related to a 2015 fire-bomb­ing of a bus that killed eight people.

Zia has been visiting her exiled son in London for the last two months and is expected to return home later this month. The country’s chief justice, who is widely seen as a major critic of the govern­ment, has also gone on a month-long leave, amid concerns that he was forcibly sent to vacation and might not return to duty.

A Jamaat spokesman condemned the arrests, saying that the leaders were attending “a social gathering”. “We protest the arrests. These are mo­tivated. We are a democratic party and abide by all democratic norms. We did not do anything that was violent or went against the democratic ways,” he said.

Ahmed, 79, has not appeared in any public meeting or political activities after he was elected as the head of the Islamist outfit last October, months after the execution of previous leader Mo­tiur Rahman Nizami for war crimes related to the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. (AFP)