A Dhaka court yesterday summoned BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia to appear before it on March 3 in a sedition case filed for her remarks on the number of Liberation War martyrs.
Momtaz Uddin Ahmad Mehedi, a Supreme Court lawyer and member of the ruling Awami League's central committee, filed the case in the morning with approval from the home ministry.
In the case statement, he alleged that Khaleda at a programme on December 21 last year said, “There are controversies over exactly how many were martyred in the Liberation War. There are also many books and documents on the controversies”.
Momtaz appealed to the court to issue an arrest warrant for the BNP chief.
Metropolitan Magistrate Rashed Talukder passed yesterday's order after recording the statement of Momtaz, a former secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association. The magistrate also said he took cognizance of the sedition charge.
The BNP protested it, saying the case was nothing but a mockery.
Pro-BNP lawyers brought out a procession on the court premises. They chanted slogans against the filing of the case and demanded that it be withdrawn.
Without mentioning Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Khaleda in her speech had also said, “He did not want independence of Bangladesh; he wanted to be Pakistan's prime minister. Liberation War would not have taken place had Ziaur Rahman not declared independence.”
In the complaint, Momtaz said he was hurt when he saw the news in different newspapers the following day.
The comments were not only tantamount to sedition but also defamatory, he said.
On December 23, Momtaz served a legal notice to Khaleda, asking her to apologise to the nation within seven days or face legal consequences. The BNP chief did not respond.
Earlier, two cases were filed against Khaleda over the same matter.
BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the case was nothing but a mockery and that it had been filed out of political vengeance.
"False cases are being filed one after another against our leader [Khaleda],” he said while addressing a programme of Jatiyatabadi Krishak Dal, a pro-BNP farmers' party, at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh.
The sedition case had been filed just to get her out of politics, he added.
The BNP leader said there was no element of treason in Khaleda's remarks.
"She said the exact number of martyrs should be determined so that we can properly honour and respect them. I've already clarified it through a statement."
Fakhrul alleged that the ruling party had divided the nation at all levels for narrow political gains.