Bangladesh: BNP Official Remanded for 7 Days Over Alleged Israeli Link

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2016-05-16
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160516-BD-bnp-israel-620.jpg Security personnel escort Bangladesh Nationalist Party Joint Secretary-General Aslam Chowdhury to court in Dhaka following his arrest, May 16, 2016.
AFP

Bangladesh police have seven days to question an opposition politician for an alleged plot to overthrow the government with the help from Israeli intelligence, a Dhaka judge determined on Monday.

Aslam Chowdhury, the joint secretary-general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) who was arrested Sunday, has been charged with meeting Likud Party leader Mendi N. Safadi in India and plotting to remove Bangladesh’s Awami League party from power with the help of Mossad, Israel’s main intelligence service.

BNP officials have denied the charges in a story that is dominating headlines in Bangladesh, saying that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was falsely accusing their party of ties with the Jewish State, which has no diplomatic relations with Dhaka.

“We, the BNP, have no connection with Israel. We do not know anyone in Israel. Mr. Aslam has said that he went to India and met (Safadi) ‘accidentally,’” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told BenarNews.

‘Accidental’ meeting

Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh, supporting the fledgling nation during its war of independence from Pakistan in 1971. But Bangladesh has yet to recognize the Jewish State because of political sensitivities among Bangladeshis who are sympathetic to the Palestinians. Bangladesh passports are valid for all countries except Israel.

Chowdhury’s arrest occurred after two Bangladesh newspapers reported that he met with Safadi – whose center-right Likud Party leads Israel’s ruling coalition – and allegedly promised Tel Aviv that BNP would recognize Israel if it helped the BNP come to power.

“The court has granted a seven-day remand for questioning Aslam Chowdhury to unearth the conspiracy with the Israeli intelligence agent,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hasan Sarder told BenarNews.

According to Sarder, Facebook posts clearly showed that Chowdhury met with Safadi in New Delhi.

Prosecutor Salma Tuli told reporters that Chowdhury met Safadi three times. She said the court also granted a seven-day remand for Chowdhury’s personal aide, Asaduzzaman Mia.

Chowdhury along with his aide and his chauffeur were arrested under section 54 of Bangladesh’s criminal code that allows police to arrest anyone on suspicion. Human rights activists have called for dropping the section because of its frequent use in arresting suspects, but the government has not supported this.

Chowdhury has said that he went to India for medical treatment and met Safadi by accident.

“This allegation is completely false and fabricated,” he told reporters two days before his arrest.

On Saturday, BNP Secretary General Alamgir rushed to the residence of the Palestinian ambassador in Dhaka, Yousef S.Y. Ramadan, and told him that the party had no links with Israel. Ramadan responded that relations with Israel would be political suicide, according to media reports.

The Awami League, meanwhile, challenged the opposition party’s statements.

“The BNP has aligned with Israel to topple our government. They promised recognizing Israel if they come to power. Their plan will not succeed,” Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, the prime minister’s cousin and a member of the Awami League presidium, told BenarNews.

‘Very sensitive issue’

On May 11, Chowdhury attended a conference on Indo-Israeli relations at the Mendi N. Safadi Center for International Diplomacy and Public Relations in Delhi, according to a Facebook post by the center. Its Facebook page featured a photo of Chowdhury with Safadi, which has been published by Bangladeshi media.

“Connections with Israel is a very sensitive issue in Bangladesh. But unless the government comes up with more concrete proof of the alleged conspiracy meeting of Safadi with Aslam Chowdhury, the Awami League is unlikely to get political benefit from the issue,” Nizam Ahmed, a political commentator and professor at the Chittagong University, told BenarNews.

Recognition of Israel by any party in Bangladesh is almost impossible unless the Palestinian issue is solved, he said.

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