The Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Friday staged demonstrations across the country protesting at Thursday’s verdict, which jailed party chairperson Khaleda Zia for five years, amid police obstructions and arrests.
The police prosecuted about 1,000 leaders and activists of BNP and its front organisations for Thursday’s clashes in Moghbazar, Ramna, Kakrail and Chankharpul areas while Khaleda’s motorcade was heading for Bakshibazar makeshift court.
Cases were also filed against several hundred BNP leaders and activists, including 200 in Sylhet, 49 in Chittagong and 643 in Habiganj, for clashes with police and ruling Awami League activists over the verdict.
The police also continued arresting BNP leaders and activists across the country. Over 350 opposition activists, including 87 in Dhaka, were arrested in 24 hours ending Friday afternoon.
A special court in Old Dhaka on Thursday jailed Khaleda for five years and her eldest son Tarique Rahman and four others for 10 years in the Zia Orphanage Trust case filed during the military-controlled interim regime in 2008.
As part of the countrywide demonstrations, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir led a procession from Baitul Mukarram National Mosque at about 2:00pm after Juma prayers.
Leaders and activists of BNP in the procession chanted slogans against the verdict and demanded immediate release of Khaleda, kept in a makeshift jail inside former Dhaka Central Jail on Najimuddin Road.
The procession escorted by police paraded Paltan, Dainik Bangla crossing,
Fakirerpul and Nayapaltan areas.
As it advanced towards Nayapaltan-Bijoynagar crossing passing by BNP central office at Nayapaltan, cops obstructed and dispersed the procession at about 2:30pm. At least three people were arrested from the procession, witnesses said.
Soon after the pronouncement of the verdict Thursday, BNP announced countrywide demonstrations at upazila and district headquarters and in Dhaka for Friday and protests for today terming the verdict ‘politically motivated.’
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said that 3,850 BNP leaders and activists were arrested in different parts of the country in past few days.
Dhaka north city BNP in a release claimed that cops foiled its protest processions at places, including Panthopath, Uttarkhan, Mirpur, Bhasantek, Dakhhin Khan and Turag.
Cops picked up two BNP activists from Asad Gate and one from Bhasantek, the release said.
Leaders and activists of BNP under the city north unit brought out procession in the areas including Tejgaon, Budda, Pallobi, Darus-Salam, Sher-e-Bangla-Nagar, Mohammadpur, Rupnagar, Uttara and Khilkhet.
Bangshal police station duty-officer sub-inspector Rafiqul Hasan told New Age that a sub-inspector of his police station lodged a case naming 46 BNP leaders and activists and other 700-800 others accusing them of attacking police and hindering them from discharging their duties at Chankharpul in Dhaka.
He said that they arrested 13 BNP leaders and activists in the case.
Three other cases were filed with Ramna police station naming 18 BNP leaders and activists and over 100 others under the Special Powers Act on charge of attacking police, injuring them, hindering them from discharging their duties and vandalising vehicles at Moghbazar, Ramna and Kakrail, said Ramna police station officer-in-charge Kazi Moinul Hossian.
He said that 18 people were arrested in the cases.
Official sources said that 87 people, all political ones, were produced before the Dhaka metropolitan magistrate courts on Friday. Of them, Khaleda’s personal assistant Shimul Biswas and Jatiyatabadi Chattra Dal president were remanded in police custody for five days.
BNP senior joint secretary general Rizvi at the briefing at the party’s central office on Friday alleged that Khaleda was kept in the jail as an ordinary prisoner.
He said that it proved how below the government’s sense of taste, saying BNP did know nothing about what was happening and how Khaleda was doing inside the jail.
He asked the government to inform about Khaleda’s wellbeing.
The BNP leader said that people now woke up and city dwellers on Thursday joined Khaleda’s motorcade on way to the court defying ban and obstacles from ruling Awami League’s ‘armed goons’.
Rizvi said that Sheikh Hasina would be forced to release Khaleda in the face of people’s resistance.
He said that storm of condemnation was running in home and abroad for convicting Khaleda in a ‘false’ and ‘fabricated’ case. Various organisations including United Nations and Human Rights Watch expressed concern over it.
Rizvi said that the prime minister with ‘arrogance’ on Thursday said where Khaleda Zia was now.
It seemed Hasina attained ‘self-complacency’ sending Khaleda to jail, he said, adding that prime minister’s excitement proved that it was a ‘dictated judgment’.
New Age correspondent in Dinajpur reported that police arrested 10 BNP leaders and activists during preparing for procession in the district town and 27 others between Thursday night and Friday morning.
New Age correspondent in Bagerhat reported that police swooped on BNP leaders and activists and arrested five leaders when they were preparing for a procession from Muktijoddha Market area.
In Bogra, BNP held procession and rally in front of the party office amid police cordon. Police dispersed a procession of Chhatradal marching to join the BNP rally.
New Age correspondent in Chittagong reported that police filed two cases with Kotwali police station against 49 BNP leaders and activists including Chittagong city unit president Shahadat Hossain Friday morning under the Anti-Terrorism Act and another for attacking police on Thursday, said Kotowali police officer-in-charge Jashim Uddin.
New Age correspondent in Sylhet reported that about 200 BNP leaders and activists, including 47 named ones, were prosecuted for Thursday’s clash with police that triggered as the law enforcers and Awami League activists, many of them with firearms, tried to resist the BNP activists from staging demonstration at court point.
Replying to a question whether any legal step would be taken against the AL leaders and activists, many of whose were carrying firearms during the clash, Sylhet Metropolitan Police additional deputy commissioner Abdul Wahab said that legal step must be taken against the people for carrying firearms, if they could be identified.
Besides, 643 BNP leaders and activists were prosecuted in five cases with four police stations in Habiganj Thursday night for their alleged attack on police, said Habiganj district police assistant superintendent Nazim Uddin.
New Age correspondents reported that 25 BNP leaders and activists were arrested in Brahamanbaria in 24 hours ending Friday evening, 5 in Satkhira, 9 in Mymensingh, 15 in Kishoreganj and 12 in Habiganj.
New Age correspondents reported that protest processions were brought out in Sylhet, Sirajganj, Munshiganj, Jessore and Barisal.