BNP leader Aslam Chowdhury, who had drawn controversy after meeting an Israeli political leader in India early this month, was arrested by detectives in the capital yesterday.
Maruf Hossain Sarder, deputy commissioner (media) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said members of Detective Branch (Dhaka North) arrested Aslam in Khilkhet area around 6:00pm.
At the time, the BNP joint secretary general was going to Narayanganj, the official said, adding that detectives also detained his driver and one of his accomplices.
Talking to The Daily Star, Maruf said he was not aware of the reasons behind the arrest. Police sources could only say that preparations were underway for filing a case against him.
Soon after the arrest, Aslam was taken to the DB headquarters on Minto Road, said Shahidul Haque, officer-in-charge of Khilkhet Police Station.
Known to be a trusted lieutenant of BNP's senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman, Chittagong-based businessman Aslam came under severe criticism both in and outside the party after several photographs went viral in social media showing him with Mendi N Safadi, a leader of Israel's Likud Party and chief of International Diplomacy and Public Relations.
Several photographs posted in the Facebook page “Mendi N Safadi Center -- for International Diplomacy and Public Relations” show the two attending programmes in India early this month.
Recently, a Bangla daily ran a series of reports where it was alleged that the BNP was involved in hatching a plot to topple the AL government by joining forces with Mossad, Israel's secrete service agency.
The reports mentioned that Aslam met Safadi in New Delhi early this month. The newspaper also published two photographs of Aslam with the Israeli leader.
In one photograph, Aslam is seen standing next to Safadi, who is sitting on a chair, at a programme on India-Israel relations.
Since the issue was first reported, Awami League leaders and ministers have been alleging that the BNP had been trying to come to power with the help of Mossad. The BNP denies this allegation, saying it was cooked up.
Amid swirling controversy, Aslam on May 11 told The Daily Star that he met Safadi in New Delhi “accidentally” and he didn't know if the Israeli politician had any links with Mossad.
Aslam, convener of BNP's Chittagong district (north) unit in 2014, became the party's one of the joint secretaries general this year.
Already close to Tarique, he earned further trust of the senior vice-chairman after the violent anti-government movement in Sitakunda in late 2013 and in the first three months of 2015, party sources said.
The Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Sitakunda area virtually became a death zone for drivers and transport workers due to frequent arson attacks on vehicles during the BNP-led opposition's countrywide agitations.
Tariqul Islam, assistant superintendent of police (Sitakunda circle), said Aslam is accused in 18 cases filed with Sitakunda Police Station for subversive activities, attacks on people and law enforcers, vandalism and arson attacks on vehicles.
Police so far submitted 17 charge sheets against Aslam and he is now on bail in every case, added the official.
The arrest of Aslam came hours after Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the BNP has teamed up with Israeli secrete agency to destabilise Bangladesh.
“The BNP leader's meeting with Mossad is a proof of the party's stance against the country,” he said, adding that hunt was on for Aslam and others involved.
Talking to reporters at his office in the afternoon, the home boss also said police would go for further action after collecting more information about Aslam.
Earlier in the morning, Chittagong Metropolitan Police Commissioner Iqbal Bahar told reporters that Aslam would be held wherever he would be found, reports our correspondent.
While replying to a query at a press conference, he also said a ban was imposed on Aslam's leaving the country.
'WE ARE NOT DENYING IT'
On the issue of Aslam's meeting with the Israeli politician, Brig Gen (retd) ASM Hannan Shah, standing committee member of BNP, yesterday said, “We are not denying it; he [Aslam] is not denying it either.
“But he [Aslam] didn't realise that Indian agents were out to malign the BNP using the photo.”
Rizvi Ahmed, BNP's senior joint secretary general, last night said the allegation that the party was conspiring to topple the government with the help of Mossad was nothing but a cooked-up story.
Talking to BBC Bangla Service, Rizvi also said Aslam had already clarified in a statement that he went to India on a personal trip. “How would he know if a delegate from a particular country is present in a programme?”