A spree of arrests continues as police have been picking up BNP leaders and activists across the country despite an assurance by the government that there will be no political arrests.
Around 500 people, including 150 BNP-Jamaat men, were arrested in 21 districts in the last 24 hours till 6:00am yesterday in both new and old cases.
The police action has triggered panic among the BNP men as they have already been accused in different “political cases”.
The opposition party yesterday alleged that more than 2,200 of its leaders and activists were held across the country in the last three days over Tuesday's rally of the Jatiya Oikyafront.
Briefing reporters at the party's Nayapaltan central office, BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said, “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had assured the Jatiya Oikyafront that political leaders and activists won't be arrested anymore. But the arrests of BNP men have been continuing.”
In Dhaka, law enforcers picked up at least 372 people before and after the Oikyafront rally in the city's Suhrawardy Udyan. They were arrested on different charges, including attacking police with brick chips, assembling illegally, creating obstacles to police duties, creating anarchy and attempted murder. Many of them were put on remand after being produced before different Dhaka courts.
On Wednesday, more than 100 families of the arrestees thronged the court premises to see their loved ones. Many of them claimed their relatives were innocent.
They said their relatives were picked up by law enforcers on Tuesday and they could not trace the detainees until they were taken to courts the following day.
Yesterday, around a dozen families were found waiting on the premises of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's (CMM) Court in Dhaka to see their dear ones.
Khairul Basher, brother of detained Jatiyatabadi Krishak Dal leader Yaar Hossain Bobby, said police picked up his sibling from the capital's Kadamtali area on Tuesday night moments after he came out of a mosque after saying Esha prayers.
He alleged that Bobby, president of Kadamtali thana Krishak Dal, was accused in a case as he was involved in BNP politics.
Anjum Ara, wife of arrestee Shakhawat Hossain Rony, was crying sitting near the entrance to the CMM court around 3:35pm yesterday. Standing beside her, her five-year-old daughter Suriya was also in tears.
Talking to The Daily Star, she said her husband, a worker at a metal workshop in Jatrabari, was picked from the area on Wednesday night on suspicion of committing a crime.
Shakhawat was never involved in politics and never arrested earlier, she added.
Shahinur Akter, wife of detainee Kamrul Hassan Rony, said a team of Kalabagan police picked him up from his laundry service shop in the area on Tuesday night.
The following day, police informed his relatives that he was shown arrested in a a case filed previously.
Ruma Akther, wife of another arrestee Hazrat Ali, also alleged that her husband, a furniture shop owner in the city's Moghbazar, was detained from his shop on Tuesday though he had nothing to do with politics.
The next day, his family came to known that Hazrat was shown arrested in a case filed with Mohammadpur Police Station.
In Narayanganj, 25 leaders and activists of BNP and its 20-party alliance partners, were picked up in the last the two days. They were shown arrested in two cases filed with Narayanganj Sadar and Fatullah police stations.
The arrestees were produced before a court yesterday in a case filed over barring cops from carrying out their duties, planning subversive activities and vandalising vehicles.
Of them, 14 were put on three-day remand each while the rest were sent to jail. A local court fixed Sunday for hearing bail prayers for the rest of the arrestees.
Talking to The Daily Star on the court premises, Nure Alam, assistant general secretary of Siddhirganj thana Jubo Dal, said police picked up Iqbal Hossain, joint secretary general of the Jubo Dal unit, on Wednesday and produced him before a court on Monday.
“We fear the detainees might become victims of forced disappearance. The fear remains until police produce them before a court,” he said.
Anwar Prodhan, joint secretary of Narayanganj District Lawyers Forum, said 11 cases were filed against about 300 activists of BNP and its alliance partners in the district.
Cases were being filed against those who held party posts, pasted posters on walls and hung banners, he mentioned, adding that the law enforcers were releasing others after taking bribes.
Refuting the allegations, Mohammad Manirul Islam, additional superintendent of Narayanganj police, said there were specific allegations in all the cases. “The accused say a lot of things.”
In Mymensingh, 11 cases were lodged against around 650 BNP men since Monday. They were accused of “planning subversive activities” and “obstructing police from performing their duties”.
Terming the cases “ghostly cases”, BNP Organising Secretary Emran Saleh Prince yesterday said he was also accused in a case on Monday.
“The time of occurrence mentioned in the case was around 11:30pm. But I was attending a talk show at a private television channel in Dhaka at that time.”
In Sirajganj, police claimed to have arrested two Jubo Dal leaders with 12 petrol and four crude bombs and lethal weapons during a raid on the local Jubo Dal office in Barwari Bazar Bottola area of the district's Tarash upazila on Wednesday night.
In the last one week, four cases were filed accusing more than 300 BNP men over violence in the district.
In Pabna, many BNP men were staying away from home fearing arrest.
Sylhet police in the last two days picked up around 22 people from different upazilas in several cases filed previously.
In Rajshahi, law enforcers arrested 10 BNP-Jamaat men from different upazilas in the last two days. Many BNP leaders didn't stay at home fearing police raids.
Besides, BNP-Jamaat men were held in Tangail, Barishal, Jhenidah, Satkhira, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Lalmonirhat and Kurigram in the last two days, reports our local correspondents.
Our correspondents in Khulna, Narayanganj, Pabna, Mymensingh, Sylhet and Rajshahi also contributed to this report.