Violence and arrests of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists at places in Dhaka, Sirajganj and elsewhere in the country marked the party’s countrywide protests on Sunday for immediate release of imprisoned and ailing BNP chairperson and former prime minister Khaleda Zia.
Several dozens of BNP activists were injured in a series of clashes between activists of BNP and Awami League in Sirajganj while police attacked processions at Kotwali and Shahbagh in Dhaka and in Faridpur district town, reports received from the areas said.
BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Friday, against the backdrop of the Appellate Division’s Thursday deferment of Khaleda’s bail hearing to December 12, announced the countrywide demonstration to press home their demand for Khaleda’s release.
Khaleda has been in jail since February 8, 2018, the day she was convicted by a special court in Dhaka in a graft case which BNP termed false and fabricated.
Addressing rallies and meetings after processions across the country on Sunday, BNP leaders alleged that Khaleda was still in jail for the government’s political vengeance and that the government was implementing their plot to kill Khaleda in jail by depriving her of proper treatment.
They also alleged that the government kept her in jail and was hindering the process of her getting bail only to linger their ‘illegal power’ they grabbed through the December 30, 2018 elections by snatching people’s votes at the night prior to the election day.
They claimed that Khaleda was seriously ill and deserved bail, warning of tough movement programmes if she was denied justice.
BNP senior joint secretary-general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi in a press briefing at the party central office at Naya Paltan in Dhaka on Sunday afternoon condemned the attacks on BNP processions and announced countrywide demonstration for Tuesday to press for the release of Khaleda Zia.
New Age correspondent in Sirajganj reported that at least 30 people, including two cops, were injured as Awami League and BNP activists engaged in a series of clashes on the Kalibari-Eliotganj Bridge road in the district town on Sunday.
Witnesses and police said that Sirajganj Government College students brought out a procession from the college premises at about 11:00am to mark the country’s victory in the Independence War.
When the procession reached the Kalibari-Eliotganj bridge road it faced a BNP procession and tension ensued, they added.
They said that activists of the AL and its front organisations from the college procession and BNP activists from their’s began to throw brick bats on each other and made chases and counter-chases, turning the area became a battlefield. Many were seen to carry sharp weapons.
Meanwhile, additional police rushed to the spot, lobbed teargas shells and opened rubber bullets to disperse the clashing groups.
The pro-AL activists, meanwhile, in presence of police, advanced towards Kalibari Road, set fire to the BNP office there and attacked and vandalised a number of shops, especially owned by BNP activists.
The injured in the clashes included Sirajganj municipality AL president Helal Uddin and truck workers’ leader Sohagh Molla of AL, district BNP organising secretary Mirza Mostafa Zaman, assistant organising secretary Hitler Shamim, Mohammad Ali Swapan, Chhatra Dal joint general secretary Taiqul Hasan and activists Zibrail Hossain and Firoz Ahmed and Swechchhasebak Dal assistant general secretary Abdul Hakim and cops Tariqul Islam and Abu Zafar Nayan of the Sadar police station.
Sirajganj municipality AL president Helal Uddin claimed that 15 of their activists were injured in the attack by BNP activists and demanded immediate arrest of the attackers.
BNP standing committee member Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku, referring to local leaders, alleged that AL leaders and activists, with the assistance of police, attacked their programme in a planned way and set fire to the BNP office, leaving at least 13 BNP leaders and activists.
Sirajganj additional superintendent of police Md Forkan Shikder claimed that BNP activists attacked the police when the law enforcers went there to bring the situation under control.
In Dhaka, police and AL activists attacked BNP processions at Shahbagh and Kotwali, leaving at least 12 BNP activists injured while at least three activists were arrested, said a press release issued by Dhaka South City unit of BNP.
It further said that the police also attacked and foiled the BNP procession in Faridpur when several BNP activists were injured.
Reports received from Khulna, Chattogram, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet, Feni, Lakshmipur, Jsahore, Jhenaidah, Chapainawabganj, Munshiganj and Brahamanbaria said that the demonstrations in those cities and district towns were held peacefully.
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