Police ‘creating climate of fear’


ARREST: Police detain a man during
a drive against narcotics in Dhaka
ARREST: Police detain a man during a drive against narcotics in Dhaka

BANGLADESH’S CONTROVERSIAL DRUGS CRACKDOWN IS CRITICISED BY FAMILIES THE death toll in a Bangladeshi “zero tolerance” crackdown on drugs has risen to 140, with about 18,000 people arrested, the government said last Thursday (7), as a group of activists urged the United Nations to step in to stop the bloodshed. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina approved the anti-narcotics campaign in early May to tackle the spread of methamphetamines, but the killings have raised fears among rights groups of a bloody Philippine-style campaign to wipe out drugs. Hasina, who faces a general election later in 2018, has dismissed accusations of extra-judicial killings, and said the crackdown enjoys popular support. The UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein last Wednesday (6) called for independent investigations into the killings and said there was a “high likelihood” that many people may have been arbitrarily detained. Police in Bangladesh say all the people killed so far were wanted drug kingpins, and all died in late-night gang wars or shootouts with police. No officers have been seriously injured. However, the wife of one of the men gunned down, Akramul Haque, has alleged that he was murdered in a set-up. Bangladesh says Haque was a meth kingpin who died after opening fire at police, and was one of 130 accused dealers killed in murky late-night shootouts. But his wife has gone public with tapes that she says prove her husband was murdered in a set-up. Ayesha Begum says the phone conversations she recorded with Haque on the night he died contradict the official narrative – that he was armed and shot at police, who returned fire in self-defence. “They killed him in cold blood,” Begum said from Teknaf in south-east Bangladesh, where her husband, a local councillor, was gunned down on May 27. “They said it was…

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