Thursday, January 9, 2014

Human Rights Watch: nothing democratic about crackdown

Human Rights Watch has published a further press release about the current political and human rights situation in the country.

Titled, 'Elections Further Tainted by Arbitrary Arrests ‘Nothing Democratic’ About Ongoing Crackdown on Critics

Here are some excerpts
“While in some cases the government has acted appropriately to stop violence by some opposition forces, this spate of arrests is part of a pattern of weakening critics, limiting dissent, and consolidating ruling party power,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Awami League claims that it is the leading democratic party in Bangladesh, but there is nothing democratic about this kind of widespread crackdown on critics.”

Police arrested eight BNP politicians in Dhaka on January 7, although five were later released. Three have been charged with inciting violence before the election. BNP Vice-Chair Selima Rahman was arrested after addressing a press conference on January 7. Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, a senior advisor to the BNP president, was held shortly after giving a speech denouncing the election. The police have accused them and a former member of parliament, Fazlul Haq Milon, of inciting violence. A court on January 8 ordered Khandaker Mahbub Hossain and Fazlul Haq Milon to be held in custody for two days, pending a further hearing. Rahman was denied bail and sent to jail.
In an illustrative case, on November 8, police arrested five BNP leaders including former Prime Minister Moudud Ahmed. The following day they were charged with inciting their supporters to hold violent protests, including arson. Their lawyers say the police did not have warrants to arrest the men and say their names were not mentioned in the original police complaint. On December 26, their lawyer, Mahbub Uddin Khokon, who is also a BNP parliamentarian, was arrested on his way home from a bail hearing at the Dhaka High Court. His lawyers say he was questioned at the Detective Branch office that evening without being informed of any charges against him. The next day he learned that he had been accused of involvement in the fire bombing of a bus in which one police officer died. He was not mentioned in the initial police complaint, although 12 other opposition leaders were named along with 18-20 “unidentified persons.”

Ahead of a December 29 BNP “March for Democracy,” hundreds were arrested. The aide of one BNP member of parliament said he helped organize the transport of some 200 supporters into the capital, but all of them were arrested. After they paid bribes to the police they were told to go home that evening, he said.

One of the party’s vice-presidents, Hafizuddin Ahmed, was picked up after shortly after he held a press conference on December 29. Other prominent figures were held after they visited the BNP leader’s house or the party headquarters.

Leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party report being threatened with arrest. Many of its members have been arrested, while others have gone into hiding. The Jamaat party was earlier disqualified from participating in the polls after the Supreme Court and the Election Commission ruled that its charter ran contrary to Bangladesh’s secular constitution. Senior members of the party report having police come to their homes seeking to arrest them on the basis of First Information Reports based on falsified evidence.

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