Death Toll Rises in Bangladesh Protests :: Wall Street Journal

 WSJ Link :
DHAKA—The disappearance of a leading opposition figure in Bangladesh has plunged the poor South Asian nation into a political crisis and threatens efforts to turn around its global image as a "basket case," as former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once famously put it.
At least five people were killed and scores injured in the protests. Above, a scene in Dhaka on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party called supporters into the streets for the third straight day of strikes to protest the disappearance last week of Ilyas Ali, a party member from the northeastern city of Sylhet.

Political disappearances plague Bangladesh :: Al Jazeera

Photo by AFP
Human rights organisations say about 100 people, mostly political activists, have disappeared in the last year in Bangladesh.
Among them is Ilyas Ali, a former parliament member from the region of Sylhet. He was seen as a rising figure among the ranks of the opposition. Ali's wife is convinced security forces abducted him because of his political activities.
While her fears are not groundless, it is also true that local politicians are often linked to organised crime. Many of those who have disappeared had a criminal past. Ali, for example, had spent time in prison on suspicion of murder.
Adilur Rahman, a Dhaka-based human-rights lawyer, believes that the disappearances reveal the shortcomings of the justice system.
There is a two-three year backlog of cases in court and criminals often go unpunished.
"Many local politicians believe they are above the law," Rahman says. "These disappearances are a form of quick justice."
Security forces, though, deny any involvement in the disappearances.
Recently, after a meeting with her intelligence chief, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the Bangladesh prime minister, said that Ilyas was in hiding and this was a ploy to stir up trouble.
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), along with its 18 political allies, responded by announcing a countrywide general strike on Sunday.
After a night of violence, during which angry opposition activists torched vehicles, schools, businesses and shops remained shut throughout on Sunday.
About 30,000 extra police officers were on duty and security forces cordoned off the BNP headquarters in the capital, Dhaka.
Opposition activists who were to be seen on the streets said hundreds of their colleagues had been arrested.
Striking a note of defiance, they have vowed to continue to protest until Ilyas Ali is found alive.

The Guardian : Bangladesh police out in force as tension rises over missing politician

main link:

Sheikh Hasina claimed Ilias Ali may be hiding on the orders of his own party.
Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, claimed Ilias Ali may be hiding on the orders of his own party. Photograph: Faisal Al-Tamimi/AFP/Getty Images
Police in Bangladesh used baton charges, live bullets and teargason Sunday in clashes with demonstrators protesting against the alleged abduction of a senior politician. The violence was the most acute for many months in the unstable state.
In Dhaka, the capital, dozens of small devices were reported to have exploded and 20 arrests were made. In the north-eastern city of Sylhet, 12 people were reported to have been injured and more than 50 detained in running battles. On Sunday night a tense calm had been established, although tens of thousands of security personnel remained deployed across the country in anticipation of further clashes on Monday.
The crisis was sparked by the disappearance last Tuesday of Ilias Ali, a key organiser with the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP). Ali was the latest in a series of political activists who have apparently been abducted, raising fears of a concerted campaign of intimidation aimed at opposition politicians. At least 22 people have gone missing so far this year, the local human rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra said. In 2011, the number was 51. Estimates of the exact number vary though all indicate a rising overall total.
Many local and international campaigners have blamed security forces, accusing the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and local police of eliminating opposition figures to benefit the administration of Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister.
Spokesmen from the Rab have denied the charge, saying that many of those found dead or who have disappeared were involved in crime and killed by associates or rivals. The director of the Rab's legal wing, Commander Mohammed Sohail, said an operation had been launched to recover Ali and a search was continuing.
Speaking in Dhaka last week, Hasina suggested Ali might have been "hiding somewhere" on the orders of his party. Ministers described his disappearance as "sad" and "unexpected".
Police officials contacted by the Guardian refused to comment on the case.
Ali's wife, Tahsina Rushdir, said her husband, a veteran activist who had risen through the ranks of the BNP, had been campaigning for the party in Sylhet before he disappeared. "He told me that the government was making a list of people who were being critical about them. He wouldn't be picked up this way unless he had posed a threat to the government," she said. "The waiting is very difficult."
More than 30 people were injured in clashes between opposition activists and the police on the streets of Dhaka last week following the news that Ali was missing.
Tensions in the south Asian state, home to 160 million people, have been building for months. Runaway inflation, rising inequality and recent corruption charges against some ministers have all combined to undermine the popularity of the government, in power since winning a landslide victory in 2008.
Politics in Bangladesh, which won independence from Pakistan after a bloody conflict in 1971, has been marked for decades by the personal rivalry of Sheikh Hasina, head of the Bangladesh Awami League, and Khaleda Zia, leader of the BNP. This has not however prevented economic growth rates that are among south Asia's highest and some significant improvements in areas such as education. But governance and the rule of law remain weak. Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of Bangladeshi human rights group Odhikar, said the disappearances were "a result of the impunity granted to the law enforcement [agencies] for the last 41 years". Dr Iftekhar Uz-Zaman, executive director of the Bangladesh chapter of Berlin-based Transparency International, blamed "growing partisan political influence" that was eroding "the capacity of the state to promote rule of law, justice, equality and basic human rights of the people".
Among the recent missing are three student leaders from the BNP. The body of a trade union organiser, apparently tortured, was found after he disappeared on 4 April. Two opposition activists, both members of an Islamic student organisation, disappeared in February.
Shafiq Ahmed, minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs, said that a full investigation was under way to locate all those who have disappeared, and that allegations that the government could be responsible in any way for abductions were motivated by "an interest to gain public attention".
The minister also rejected criticism of the government's economic record. "The economy [in Bangladesh] is better than many countries in the face of global economic depression," he said.
The Rab has received training from British police, the Guardian revealed in 2010. Details of the programme appeared in a number of cables released by WikiLeaks. The Rab is believed to be responsible for up to 1,000 extrajudicial killings since being formed eight years ago.
In its 2012 annual report Human Rights Watch said ministers have denied that such incidents occur, even when the government's own investigations found evidence of wrongdoing.

Police 'beat up' blindfolded JCD men : Torture on Opposition

 main link:

Subir Roy Correspondent 

Khulna, Apr 22 ( – Police have allegedly beaten up two activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal after blindfolding them and hanging one of them from the ceiling. 

A committee has been formed to investigate the incident that took place at Khulna Sadar Police Station on Sunday afternoon, assistant commissioner of Khulna police Mosharraf Hossain told

The one-member panel is headed by deputy commissioner Haider Ali. 

The two victims, Mahmud-ul-Haque Tito and Ferdaus-ur-Rahman Munna, were detained in the morning on charges of attacking police with petrol bombs in Tutpara area. 

BNP, of which JCD is the student wing, has demanded trial of the police personnel involved in the incident and threatened to stage protests if the demand is not met in 24 hours. 

Some journalists rushed to the police station on hearing about the incident and also snapped pictures, party's city unit chief and MP Nazrul Islam Manju told

Officer in-charge S M Qamruzzaman, along with some sub-inspectors and constables, hung Tito from the ceiling and beat him up with sticks, Manju said. Munna was also beaten, he added. 

The OC, however, denied the reports of beating and said they were only blindfolded and threatened. 

"The allegation of beating after hanging is false," he said. 

The duo has admitted to the misdeed, Qamruzzaman said. 

According to him, SI Shah Alam filed a case naming Munna, Tito and nine others and 150 unidentified people charging them with bombing, hindering government duty and causing injuries to police personnel.