At least 20 BNP men were detained near Le Méridien Dhaka hotel where the party was holding its national executive committee meeting yesterday.
A group of plainclothes men started detaining the BNP activists around 11:20am, nearly 15 minutes after party Chairperson Khaleda Zia reached the venue. It continued for half an hour, said witnesses.
At first, four BNP men were forced into a white microbus. The rest were taken in two other microbuses later, witnesses said.
The identities of the detainees could not be confirmed immediately.
Contacted, Shahidul Haque, officer-in-charge of the capital's Khilkhet Police Station, said they did not pick up anyone from the Le Méridien Dhaka hotel or its nearby places.
He also claimed that he had no idea about yesterday's incident.
This correspondent called Shaikh Nazmul Alam, deputy commissioner (north division) of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, several times for comments but he did not pick up the phone.
During yesterday's programme, police did not allow anyone, except journalists, to go to the areas near the hotel. The random detainment created a panic among the enthusiastic leaders and activists of the BNP who had gathered to join the programme. Many of them left the place fearing arrest, alleged BNP leaders.
Police launched a crackdown on BNP leaders and activists in the capital and elsewhere ahead of the verdict scheduled to be delivered on February 8 in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case against Khaleda and her son Tarique Rahman.
In the last couple of days, several hundred party men were arrested across the country.
About the arrests, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan yesterday said, “There is nothing political here. We are arresting criminals only.”
“We are arresting those who are involved in vandalism and tried to snatch rifles from police. We are doing it after scrutinising CCTV footage,” he said while speaking at a programme in the capital.
On January 30, a group of BNP men attacked a prison van and snatched two of their fellow men from it near Supreme Court area of the capital. The attackers also broke rifles of the policemen guarding the van.
Talking to The Daily Star last night, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said all the cases filed against “opposition men were politically motivated”.
He alleged that the government wanted to eliminate its opposition from politics.
Meanwhile, A Dhaka Court yesterday sent senior BNP leaders Amanullah Aman and Nazimuddin Alam to jail after Ramna police produced them before it.
Apart from the two, Metropolitan Magistrate Subrata Ghosh Shuvo also sent 36 other BNP men, who had been on remand, to jail in connection with vandalism and attack on police.
BNP MEN PICKED UP IN B. BARIA
Police last night detained four local BNP leaders and activists in Ashuganj upazila of Brahmanbaria.
The detainees are: Ashuganj upazila BNP joint secretaries Alamgir Hossain and Abdu Mia, Ashuganj Sadar Union unit BNP General Secretary Humayun Kabir and activist Salam Mia, police said.
Badrul Alam Talukder, officer-in-charge of Ashuganj Police Station, said they detained the five as they were holding a “secret” meeting at the home of upazila BNP president and Ashuganj upazila Chairman Abu Asif Ahmed in Station Road area.
They were holding the meeting to carry out subversive activities centering February 8 verdict in a case filed against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, he added.
Jahirul Islam, general secretary of BNP in the district, said the five were detained to thwart party preparations for welcoming Khaleda in the upazila on her way to Sylhet today.