Arrest fear grips BNP ranks

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12:00 AM, July 22, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:35 AM, July 22, 2018

City Polls 2018

Arrest fear grips BNP ranks

Ariful stages sit-in in Sylhet to protest arrest of 2 of his workers; 8 held in Rajshahi, 1 in Barisal

With the city corporation polls in Sylhet, Rajshahi and Barisal only a week away, arrests of BNP leaders and activists remain a major concern for the party's mayoral candidates.

BNP leaders have alleged that the ruling Awami league wants to follow “Khulna-Gazipur style” in the polls slated for July 30.

Yesterday, BNP mayor candidate Ariful Haque Choudhury staged a sit-in before the office of the Sylhet Metropolitan Police (SMP) deputy commissioner, protesting the arrests of two party activists.

Ariful along with around 100 BNP men started the protest in Upashahar area around 2:00pm. It ended around two and a half hours later.

In Rajshahi, seven leaders of BNP, Jubo Dal and Chhatra Dal and one from Jamaat were arrested on Friday overnight and yesterday. The BNP filed a complaint with the returning officer about the violation of the electoral code of conduct by the AL mayor candidate, intimidation of BNP leaders and activists by the police and attacks on them by the AL men.

Barisal city Jamaat Secretary General Jahir Uddin Md Babor was arrested on Friday night when he was campaigning for BNP mayor nominee Mujibur Rahman Sarwar in the city's Battala area.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, BNP standing committee member Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain said such arrests had taken place ahead of the city corporation polls in Gazipur and Khulna and the AL was “replicating the strategy of those polls” in Sylhet, Rajshahi and Barisal.

“By doing so, the government once again is proving that a free and fair election is not possible under it. The ruling party is exposing its intentions over the polls.”

AL candidates won the polls in Khulna and Gazipur recently, beating their nearest rivals from the BNP.

Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said he didn't know about the reasons for yesterday's arrests.

“Police can arrest a person if he faces a specific allegation or criminal cases. We have directed the authorities concerned not to arrest anyone in the city corporation areas without any specific allegation,” he told The Daily Star.

TWO HELD IN SYLHET

Police picked up BNP activists Rasel Ahmed and Sumon Ahmed in Dakshin Surma upazila's Jhalopara early yesterday.

After staging the sit-in, BNP mayoral nominee Ariful said they would fight a legal battle to free the arrestees.

Ajbahar Ali Chowdhury, deputy commissioner (south) of SMP, said the arrestees were chargesheeted in a case filed with Osmaninagar Police Station and arrest warrants were issued against the two.

However, Gouranga Das, sub-inspector of Osmaninagar Police Station and also the investigation officer of the case, contradicted the DC's views.

He said the two were arrested in a case filed under the Special Powers Act, 1974 and they were not facing arrest warrants.

The IO could not give details about the case but said one of the arrestees was accused in an arms case previously.

Earlier on July 12, Ariful had staged another sit-in in front of Bandarbazar Police Fari demanding release of one of his supporters. The detainee was freed later.

EIGHT ARRESTED IN RAJSHAHI

Among the arrestees in Rajshahi are city Jamaat Nayeb-e-Amir Abu Yousuf Selim, BNP Joint Secretary Khandaker Wayes Karni Daimond, Iftiar Mahmud Babu and Golap Nabi.

Including the eight, police have so far picked up at least 18 members of BNP and Jamaat in the city since the beginning of electioneering on July 10.

Tofazzal Hossain, chief election agent of Bulbul, submitted a complaint to the returning officer yesterday.

He said police arrested at least seven BNP men and raided the houses of 22 others to “create fear among the party men”.

Talking to reporters on the premises of the returning officer's office, Bulbul said, “We are seeing a new strategy of the police. The district police are arresting our men from the city and taking them to the police stations in different upazilas as suspects in false cases.”

Rakibul Hassan, OC of Puthia Police Station, said Jamaat leader Selim was arrested at his home in the city's Kalabagan area in a case filed with the police station on June 30 under the Special Powers Act.

Law enforcers picked up Nabi from Laxmipur area yesterday when he was returning home after campaigning for Bulbul.

Asked about the arrests, ASP Abdur Razzak, spokesman of Rajshahi police, said they had information that the arrestees were conspiring to carry out subversive activities on the polling day.

'ARRESTS MAJOR BARRIER TO FAIR POLLS'

Barisal BNP leaders alleged that police were raiding the BNP-Jamaat men's houses at night.

BNP candidate Sarwar said, “Police are picking up BNP-Jamaat leaders and activists during campaigning. It is a major barrier to holding free and fair polls.”

Police said Jamaat leader Jahir was arrested in an arson case filed with Kotwali Police Station in 2017.

Kotwali OC Md Asaduzzaman said police produced the arrestee before a Barisal court yesterday and the court sent him to jail.

Helal Uddin, assistant returning officer in Barisal, said though police go under the control of the Election Commission during the election period, they can arrest any accused.

Police regularly send lists of arrestees to the returning officer mentioning the reasons for the arrests, he added. 

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