Bangladesh opposition leader charged with sedition
The move comes as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is stepping up a crackdown on political opponents in the Muslim-majority country, which is reeling from a wave of killings blamed on Islamists.
Aslam Chowdhury, a joint secretary of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was arrested last week after local media reported he had met an Israeli government adviser in India in March.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman said Chowdhury was now charged with sedition and could face up to three years if convicted.
“We have filed a sedition case against Aslam Chowdhury after we received a greenlight from the home ministry,” Rahman told AFP.
The case was filed hours after the national police chief told reporters that police had “found evidence” that “Chowdhury conspired with an Israeli politician to overthrow (Hasina’s) Awami League-led government.”
Chowdhury, a tycoon from the southern city of Chittagong, has denied plotting against the government and told reporters he met the Israeli adviser during a “personal business trip” to India.
Bangladesh has no diplomatic ties with Israel and Bangladeshis are banned from travelling to the country.
Critics say the arrest was part of a crackdown Hasina’s government has launched against the country’s main opposition parties, which include the BNP and its ally, Jamaat-e-islami.
BNP leader and former premier Khaleda Zia was this month charged with masterminding arson attacks during anti-government protests last year, the latest in a string of charges she says are politically motivated.
Bangladesh has been hit by a political crisis since the BNP and other opposition parties boycotted the general election in 2014.
Scores of people were killed in firebomb attacks on vehicles last year when Zia called a transport blockade as part of her efforts to force the government to hold fresh elections.
Hasina’s secular government arrested and prosecuted thousands of opposition supporters in response to the violence.
Bangladesh has also been hit by a series of gruesome murders of secular and liberal activists and members of religious minorities.