Dhaka: The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) says fake cases were being slapped on supporters of the party and accused authorities of targeting opposition political parties.
Thousands of party activists in Bangladesh have been hoisted with “fake” charges of violence in a widespread crackdown by authorities, the opposition has said, as a prominent human rights group expressed concerns.
Opponents of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – whose government faces a general election next year and is accused of rights abuses – have held protests across the country in recent months over power cuts.
Sairul Kabir Khan, a BNP spokesman, said that since August 22, police had charged at least 4,081 party supporters and leaders in what he called trumped-up or “fake” charges related to the violence.
Another 20,000 unidentified BNP supporters had also been charged, he added – a tactic that rights activists say gives police sweeping power to harass any opposition supporters who may or may not have attended a rally. Five activists have been killed and more than 2,000 injured at the protests, Khan sadi.
Police had not intervened when BNP rallies came under attack, mostly by stick-wielding activists of the ruling Awami League, but “if we retaliate, then they start reacting”, he said. “The police are not a neutral force,” Khan added.
Police say four people have died in at least three protests but accused the opposition of triggering the violence.
Khan’s comments came as New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised concerns over “mass arrests and police raids of opposition party members’ homes”.
“While police have carried out mass arrests of opposition supporters, those affiliated with the ruling party appear to have impunity for violent attacks,” it said.
Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director, said this set “an ominous tone for the upcoming parliamentary elections”, which are set for December 2023.