Bangladesh Charges Top Opposition Figure with Sedition

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.05.26
Dhaka
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150526-BD-Chowdhury-1000 Bangladeshi opposition figure Aslam Chowdhury (third from left) has been charged with sedition, May 15, 2016.
FocusBangla

A senior Bangladeshi opposition figure has been formally charged with sedition for allegedly conspiring to topple Bangladesh’s government with help from Israeli intelligence, police officials announced Thursday.

The charges against Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Joint Secretary-General Aslam Chowdhury were filed Thursday afternoon, and he would face a potential sentence ranging from three years to life in prison if convicted, said Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Mohammad Masudur Rahman.

The charges against Chowdhury come seven weeks after a Dhaka court granted bail to BNP chief and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia after she was charged for arson for her alleged role in abetting a deadly firebombing of a bus during anti-government protests last year.

Zia, a three-time prime minister, is facing sedition charges as well. These stem from a comment she made questioning the official reporting of the number of Bangladeshis killed during the war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Earlier this month, Motiur Rahman Nizami, a leader of the faith-based party Jemaat-e-Islami – a key BNP ally – was executed in Dhaka for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1971 war.

In Aslam Chowdhury’s case, investigators have enough evidence to prosecute him for sedition, Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque told reporters in Dhaka. But he did not publically reveal any of the evidence against the BNP leader.

“We decided to file a sedition case against him,” Hoque said.

Accidental meeting?

When police arrested Aslam Chowdhury on May 15, they alleged that he had met in India with Mendi N. Safadi, a leader of Likud Party – the center-right party that leads Israel’s ruling coalition – in a plot to remove Bangladesh’s Awami League from power with the help of Mossad, the main Israeli intelligence service.

The next day a judge ordered that Chowdhury be remanded for seven days so police could question him and gather evidence against him. Chowdhury remains in custody.

According to Bangladeshi media reports, Chowdhury met with Safadi in New Delhi and allegedly told him that BNP would recognize Israel if it helped remove the Awami League from power.

At the time of Chowdhury’s arrest, Dhaka Metropolitan Police said that Facebook posts showed him with Safadi in New Delhi, and prosecutors said that the two had met there on three occasions.

Defending himself against the allegations, Chowdhury said he went to India for medical treatment and crossed paths with Safadi by accident.

Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh during the war against Pakistan in 1971. But Bangladesh has yet to recognize the Jewish State because of political sensitivity over the Palestinian question. As a result, Bangladesh passports are valid for all countries except Israel.

Awami League spokesman Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim has warned that any BNP plot with Israel to topple the government would fail.

BNP officials responded that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had falsely accused the opposition of having ties with Israel.

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