At least 90 BNP activists detained in 24 hours, 300,000 false cases filed, 3,500 arrests made in September, claims BNP leader Rizvi
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) claims it is being deliberately weakened in the run up to the parliamentary election due to a police crackdown which has seen 3,500 party activists arrested in the past fortnight alone.
BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi claimed yesterday that since September 1, a total of 300,000 leaders and activists of the party and its associate bodies have been implicated in 3,000 “false and fabricated” cases.
He alleged that over 3,500 people have been arrested already this month, including 90 in only 24 hours yesterday.
The detention of opposition activists is nothing new in Bangladesh. According to BNP statistics, as of December 2017 a total of 78,323 cases had been filed against 783,238 its leaders and activists, with party insiders adamant that most of these cases were faked as part of a coordinated strategy to suppress the opposition.
However, BNP leaders say the practice has reached “alarming” levels since party chairperson Khaleda Zia was jailed in February 2018. They claim new cases are being lodged “every single day” against BNP men, with names altered or unnamed people accused seemingly at the whim of the police.
“The police are filing cases one after another against our party men everyday to suppress the opposition,” BNP’s Law Affairs Secretary Advocate Sanaullah Mia said.
“Three cases were filed against me in the last two days. I was in court about the time of the incident mentioned in the case statement.”
‘Ghost’ cases filed
Cases have been filed against paralyzed people, people who were out of the country and in Mecca performing Hajj, and even those who have passed away.
In one such “ghost case” filed by Dhunat police station in Bogra on September 7, an 85-year-old paralyzed man named Abdul Khaleque Sarkar was charged with holding a secret meeting to carry out subversive activities.
Another BNP activist, Rubel Hossain, was also charged even though he left for Malaysia on February 14.
In another case, Abdul Azizullah, a BNP leader of Old Dhaka, was sued for throwing crude bombs at police during a hearing in Khaleda Zia’s case at Old Central Jail on September 5 - even though Azizullah died in 2016.
BNP activist Abdul Mannaf alias Chan Mia was also named in the case, despite him not yet having returned to Dhaka from Saudi Arabia, where he travelled to perform Hajj on August 4.
Khairul Bashar, a former BNP leader, also went to perform Hajj on August 2 but his name was included in a case filed on September 2 for holding a secret meeting allegedly to carry out violent activities.
BNP: Arrests are pre-election tactic
BNP leaders termed these incidents as a strategy of the government to suppress opposition activities ahead of 11th parliamentary election, which is due to be held by the end of December.
A top BNP leader wishing anonymity said the police are using arrests and pending warrants against the opposition leaders and activists to make the party weak ahead of poll.
He said law enforcers are targeting its leaders in false cases, and that the ruling Awami League has “unleashed its naked, unlawful aggression” on BNP.
“Now most root-level leaders are either behind bars or on the run to evade arrest,” he said. “Already most leaders rarely venture onto the streets for fear of arrest. If it continues, a level-playing field for the next election will be impossible.”
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir recently said that the government is filing ghost cases against several thousands of their activists. “The BNP leaders and activists, who are in rural areas, are also leading their days in fear of arrest,” he said.
He believes the government is filing the fabricated cases to suppress BNP ahead of poll.
Civil rights organization Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said the arrests will not help create a congenial atmosphere for holding a peaceful and fair election.
“From the recently held city corporation elections, we are seeing examples of controlled elections in Bangladesh and the mass cases are a part of it,” he said. “The outcome will not be an acceptable one for the national poll. Law enforcers and the government must address the issue seriously (and) immediately.”
AL: Arrests not political
Trashing BNP’s allegation, both the country’s police chief and the home minister said no innocent people has been arrested and dismissed any link between the spike in detentions and the upcoming election.
“Police will take action against anyone plotting subversive activities or creating anarchy inside Bangladesh in the name of protests,” Inspector General of Bangladesh Police Dr Md Javed Patwari said at an event recently.
“Police are perfectly capable of upholding law and order inside Bangladesh. They are prepared, and are taking preparations to prevent any sabotage. No one will be allowed to turn a peaceful environment unstable in the name of protest.”
Against the backdrop of the BNP claim on police harassment, the IGP said there is no relation between the arrests and the election.
He said: “The arrests are not made against the leaders or activists of any particular party. Only those who have cases or warrants against them are arrested. They are not arrested based on their political identities.”
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has said that members of law enforcement agencies do not arrest innocent people.
“We have evidence of where they do what. We even have video footage in this regard,” he said.
The minister urged the BNP to “prove that its arrested leaders and activists are not offenders”.
Maintaining it is being undermined deliberately ahead of the poll, the opposition party has been planning for a mass movement to realize its two core demands - the release of party chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail, and a neutral polls-time government.