DHAKA: Bangladesh has intensified crackdown against opposition political parties as 139 senior leaders and activists from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) were convicted over the past two days, according to prosecutors and lawyers. The crackdown comes as part of a broader effort to quell anti-government protests escalating in the lead-up to the general elections scheduled for January 7.
Scores of BNP activists have been convicted on charges related to protest violence, arson, and obstructing the police, with sentences ranging from a few months to three-and-a-half years. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeks her fourth consecutive term in power, but concerns have been raised by the United States and other nations regarding the fairness of the upcoming vote.
The BNP, aiming to force Hasina to step down and facilitate a neutral government for the polls, has organized major rallies and marches since last year. However, in recent weeks, law enforcement has initiated a crackdown on the opposition, arresting a significant portion of the BNP’s top leadership and detaining thousands of activists and supporters.
Conviction of Bangladesh Opposition Leaders
According to prosecutors, at least 132 BNP activists and senior officials were sentenced by two magistrate courts in Dhaka on Sunday and Monday. Prosecutor Shahid Uddin told AFP news agency that Judge Md Ataullah sentenced 70 BNP activists and leaders in four separate cases on Monday.
The charges include arson and obstructing police duty, related to incidents from 2013-2018 when opposition strikes and blockades were enforced. The convicted individuals received jail terms ranging from six months to two years.
Additionally, Judge Mohammad Sheikh Sadi sentenced 62 BNP activists to three-and-a-half years in jail each over a 2018 case, as stated by the chief public prosecutor of Dhaka, Abdullah Abu. Another seven BNP activists, including former youth wing chief Saiful Alam Nirob, were also jailed by Judge Sadi.