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Bangladesh court refuses bail for jailed opposition leader

Police personnel stand guard in front of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) headquarters in Dhaka on November 19, 2023, during a nationwide strike called by BNP activists. Bangladesh will hold a general election on January 7, the country’s chief election commissioner said on November 19, a vote opposition parties have threatened to boycott fearing that it will be rigged. Opposition parties said they would hold a nationwide strike on November 16, in protest and warned the country was being driven towards “conflict”. (Photo by Munir uz zaman / AFP) (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

Bangladesh’s jailed main opposition leader was refused bail on Wednesday (22) amid allegations of inciting vandalism in the lead-up to the upcoming general elections in January.

Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, 75, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) secretary-general, has led the party since BNP chairwoman and two-time former premier Khaleda Zia was arrested and jailed, and her son went into exile in Britain.

Alamgir was arrested last month after police broke up a large opposition rally in the capital Dhaka on October 28 after the killing of an officer, with the BNP saying 13 people were killed in the crackdown.

His party said the denial of bail was politically motivated and accused the court of acting as a political tool for the prime minister.

But prosecutor Abdullah Abu said the vandalism was carried out with the “direct instruction” of Alamgir.

“Such vandalism would not have happened if there were no instructions,” Abu said. “Therefore, the court has dismissed the bail petition.”

Bangladesh goes to a general election on January 7, with prime minister Sheikh Hasina eyeing her fourth consecutive term in power, despite concerns voiced by the US and other countries over whether the vote will be free and fair.

The BNP has staged a series of major rallies and marches since last year in a bid to force Hasina to quit power and let a neutral government run the polls.

But since late last month, the police have cracked down on the opposition, arresting almost the entire top leadership of the BNP and arresting thousands of its activists and supporters.

“This order is influenced by the government,” BNP legal chief Kayser Kamal told AFP, saying the charges against Alamgir were vague.

“He has been denied justice. He is a senior citizen, the general secretary of the country’s main opposition party, and he is also not physically well. There is no reason for his not getting bail.”

Earlier this week, prosecutors and lawyers said 139 senior BNP party officials and activists had been convicted on historic charges over protest violence, arson and obstructing the police, with convictions ranging from a few months to up to three-and-a-half years.

The BNP also rejected the verdicts as “baseless and politically motivated.”


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