Bangladesh arrests head of largest Jamaat-e-Islami party amid crackdown

The Jamaat-e-Islami party is supporting the opposition’s protests demanding PM Sheikh Hasina’s resignation.

The leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (Bangladesh Islamic Assembly), Bangladesh’s largest Muslim party, has been arrest days after he announced the party would join opposition-led protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“Shafiqur Rahman was arrested from his residence at around 1 am on 13th December [19:00 GMT, December 12],” a statement from the party’s acting secretary general, Maulana ATM Masum, said on Tuesday.

“We are vehemently condemning and protesting his arrest,” Masum said, calling the authorities for his immediate and unconditional release.

For years, Jamaat, the country’s third-largest political party, which has been band from contesting elections since 2012, a major ally of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their coalition ruled the country between 2001-2006.

Bangladesh arrests head of largest Jamaat-e-Islami party amid crackdown

But after Hasina to power in 2009, Jamaat’s entire leadership arrested and tried for war crimes dating back to the country’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Five of its top leaders hanged between 2013 and 2016 after they found guilty by a war crimes court. Hundreds of party activists shot dead and tens of thousands detained after they staged violent protests against the executions.

The party called the trials politically motivated and part of a wider vendetta against its leaders.

“Ill efforts are going on to destroy the leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami,” read the Jamaat statement. “On one hand, they are talking of democracy and election, while on the other they are oppressing … the opposition leaders and activists. Practically, they do not believe in democracy.”

Police last month also arrested Rahman’s son, Rafat Sadik Saifullah, on extremism charges and remanded him in custody under the country’s harsh “anti-terrorism” laws.

Rahman’s arrest came amid a continuing crackdown by the government since Saturday when tens of thousands of BNP leaders and supporters led a rally protesting against soaring fuel prices and cost of living in the country.

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