Bangladesh opposition leader detained after anti-government rally

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Police stays vigilant while RMG workers protest for minimum wage at Gazipur, Dhaka, 31 October 2023. Bangladeshi police clashed on October 31 with thousands of garment workers demanding fair wages for the clothing they make for major Western brands, a day after similar protests left at least two people dead. Photo by Anik Rahman (Photo by Anik Rahman/NurPhoto)NO USE FRANCE

Bangladesh’s primary opposition figure has been taken into custody amidst escalating tensions between the governing party and opposition factions in anticipation of the upcoming general elections scheduled for January.

Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the Secretary-General of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was apprehended by law enforcement following widespread anti-government demonstrations in the capital city of Dhaka. The authorities stated that Alamgir was detained for interrogation regarding the violence that erupted during the protests on Saturday. The clashes resulted in the death of a police officer, a protester, and numerous injuries on both sides.

The detention of Alamgir is part of a broader crackdown on Bangladesh’s opposition in the lead-up to the impending elections, with several opposition activists arrested and the BNP’s longstanding leader, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, effectively under house arrest.

Amidst mounting pressure, opposition figures have demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, citing concerns about fair elections due to her lengthy tenure in office, which spans over 15 years. Alamgir expressed a lack of trust in the current government’s ability to conduct free and fair elections and insisted that the government needs to step down to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. Prior to his arrest, Alamgir had called for a daylong general strike to condemn the violence.

A massive protest involving over 100,000 demonstrators took place in Dhaka, primarily comprising supporters from Bangladesh’s major opposition parties, the BNP and the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami. The demonstration turned violent, with opposition figures reportedly engaging in altercations, damaging vehicles, while police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

The BNP claimed that their rally was peaceful until authorities intervened, accusing the government of using excessive force against their supporters.

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