US visa policy to support free, fair and peaceful polls in Bangladesh: State Dept
The US State Department reiterated that the intention of the US visa policy announced for Bangladesh was not to take a side in the country's election, but to ensure or to support free, fair, and peaceful national polls in Bangladesh.
"I will say that, as we noted when we announced these new visa restrictions on Friday, they include members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition," said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller at a regular press briefing at the State Department in Washington yesterday.
He avoided making any comment when asked about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina saying that Bangladesh will also impose restrictions on those involved in any move to thwart elections from outside, and that Bangladesh's foreign ministry said the US had assured that there would be no sanction before elections.
Miller was also asked to comment on BNP's ultimatum to the government to release the party's Chairperson Khaleda Zia and allow her to go abroad for advanced medical treatment, as her medical condition was very serious.
"I just don't have any comment on that," Miller said.
A journalist also asked Miller about US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas saying on September 24 that media persons may also come under US visa restriction, and whether that undermined the US's call for human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Miller said, "… we have not announced the specific members or the specific individuals to which this [visa restriction] will apply, but it made clear that they will apply to members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition."
Washington on September 22 said it had begun applying the visa restrictions the US announced on May 24 this year. It said it imposed visa restrictions on members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.
On May 24 this year, the US said it would impose visa restrictions on individuals and their immediate family members "if they are responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh".