Dhaka: The Bangladesh police on Monday night said that it has arrested the top leaders of the country’s largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.
With this move, the government appears to have launched a crackdown on its main opposition parties.
According to Dawn, nine people were arrested in a raid on a house in Dhaka’s northern neighborhood of Uttara, including the top leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Maqbul Ahmed, deputy leader Shafiqur Rahman and former member of parliament Golam Parwar.
“We learned from a secret source they were holding a meeting in a secret place at a house in Uttara Sector Number Six. We have found some papers from that place,” Dhaka Police deputy commissioner Shaikh Nazmul Alam told AFP.
The Dawn report added that the police said they were investigating the documents.
The Bangladesh police officials did not say what the leaders were arrested for, although they said that “most of them were fugitive”, the report added.
Prothom Alo, the country’s largest newspaper, said the leaders were arrested on charges of sabotage.
The arrests came as the government appeared to have launched a crackdown on the opposition parties after it came under heavy flak for its handling of the Rohingya crisis which has seen a massive influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar, Dawn report said.
Earlier in the day, a court in the country’s east issued an arrest warrant against main opposition leader Khaleda Zia. The warrant came as she failed to appear at a hearing in a case with charges related to a 2015 fire-bombing of a bus that killed eight people.
Zia is currently in London visiting her exiled son and is expected to be back later this month.
The country’s chief justice, who is widely seen as a major critic of the government, has also gone on a month-long leave, amid concerns that he was forcibly sent to vacation and might not return to duty, the Dawn report added.
A Jamaat spokesman condemning the arrests said that its leaders were attending “a social gathering”.
“We protest the arrests. These are motivated. We are a democratic party and abide by all democratic norms. We did not do anything that was violent or went against the democratic ways,” he said.
Jamaat has been banned from contesting polls in Bangladesh since 2013. The decision came after the country’s high court ruled in 2013 that the Jammat’s charter contravened the nation’s secular constitution.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also set up a controversial war crimes tribunal in 2010, which convicted and sentenced to death top Jamaat leadership, triggering nationwide violent protests that left hundreds dead, the report added.
Five of its key leaders were later hanged.