Bangladesh Shuts 20,000 Websites In Anti-Porn War

Bangladesh on the map

 

Bangladesh authorities have blocked almost 20,000 websites as part of an anti-pornography “war”, a minister said Tuesday.

Internet providers in the conservative Muslim-majority nation took down pornography and gambling websites in the past week under orders from the telecommunications regulator.

“I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous war,” Mustafa Jabbar, the posts and telecommunications minister, told AFP.

Popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo — which authorities believe are misused — have also been blocked in the South Asian nation, Jabbar said.

Most of the blocked sites are foreign, but a few local websites and social media platforms have also faced action under the crackdown, he added.

The crackdown was launched after Bangladesh’s High Court in November asked the government to block pornography websites and publication of obscene materials in electronic forms for six months.

The court acted after a civil society organisation filed a petition stating that a large number of adult websites contain uncensored and obscene content.

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On Sunday, police reprimanded a rising actress and told her to remove provocative images from her Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages.

“We are monitoring the local Facebook profiles, YouTube channels and websites also,” Jabbar said.

“A few of them were taken down for having obscene content. We advised a few others not to post anything that goes against our social norms.”

Bangladesh — a country of 165 million people — has more than 90 million internet users. Porn stars regularly top the list of the most searched names.

Emdadul Hoque, general secretary of the internet service providers association, said they have complied with the order, but many users can still access online porn by using virtual private networks or mirror websites.

“This is a continuous process and it needs regular monitoring. These websites are very well aware of the regulations and they come up with thousands of mirror sites every week,” Hoque told AFP.

AFP

Bangladesh PM Wins Election Landslide As Opponents Demand New Vote

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (R) flashes the victory symbol after casting her vote, as her daughter Saima Wazed Hossain (1st L) and her sister Sheikh Rehana (2nd L) look on at a polling station in Dhaka on December 30, 2018. 

 

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was declared the landslide winner Monday of an election marred by deadly violence that the opposition slammed as “farcical” and rigged.

Hasina’s ruling Awami League party and its allies won 288 seats in the 300-seat parliament, with the main opposition securing only six seats, Election Commission secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said.

Sunday’s vote, which hands Hasina a record fourth term, was overshadowed by clashes between rival supporters that killed at least 17 people and allegations of ballot box stuffing and intimidation at polling stations.

Hasina’s government had mounted a crackdown on the opposition, an alliance led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which urged the country’s election commission to void the results.

“We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible,” Kamal Hossain, who heads the alliance, told reporters.

Deadly violence that blighted the election campaign spilled over into voting day, even as authorities imposed tight security with 600,000 troops, police and other security forces deployed across the country.

Thirteen people were killed in clashes between Awami League and BNP supporters, police said, while three men were shot by police who said they were protecting polling booths.

An auxiliary police member was also killed by armed opposition activists, according to officials.

 ‘We’ll cast your vote’ 

Hasina, 71, has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation during her decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

But critics accuse her of authoritarianism and crippling the opposition — including arch-rival and BNP leader Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges.

The opposition alliance accused Hasina’s party of using stuffed ballot boxes and other illegal means to fix the result.

BNP spokesman Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal said there were “irregularities” in 221 of the 300 seats contested.

Bangladesh election commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman told AFP the body had “received a few allegations of irregularities” and was investigating.

Hasina has not responded to the accusations but said in the run-up to the vote that it would be free and fair.

One voter, Atiar Rahman, said he was beaten by ruling party activists in the central district of Narayanganj.

“They told me not to bother, ‘We’ll cast your vote on your behalf’,” he told AFP.

The opposition said the unrest was stirred up to deter voters, and presiding officers reported a low turnout across the country.

Sunday’s deaths brought to 21 the official police toll for election violence since the ballot was announced on November 8.

 Free and fair? 

Experts say Hasina’s victory will be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung opponents.

“This result might affect our democratic system and might also damage state institutions,” Sakhawat Hussain, a former election commissioner, told AFP.

A man on the streets of Dhaka Monday who was too scared to give his name said: “What is the point of saying anything? We have to accept the results and the fact we have a crippled opposition.”

The opposition claims some 15,000 of its activists were detained during the campaign, crushing its ability to mobilise support.

Thirty-five of its candidates were either arrested over what they said were trumped-up charges or disqualified from running by courts, which Hasina’s opponents say are government controlled.

The United States and the United Nations raised concerns about the credibility of the election while Human Rights Watch and other international groups said the crackdown had created a climate of fear.

The leadership of Bangladesh has alternated between Hasina and Zia, allies-turned-foes, over the last three decades.

Hasina’s victory secures her third consecutive term in office, and fourth overall.

A daughter of Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina was a gifted victory in the 2014 election when the BNP boycotted the vote claiming it was not free and fair.

Rights groups have since accused her administration of stifling freedom of speech by toughening a draconian anti-press law and the enforced disappearance of dissenters.

Hasina rejects accusations of authoritarianism but analysts say she feared young voters would support the BNP.

Her government was criticised this year for its heavy handling of weeks of major student protests that brought Dhaka to a standstill.

AFP

Bangladesh PM Hasina Heading For Landslide After Deadly Election Violence

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (R) flashes the victory symbol after casting her vote, as her daughter Saima Wazed Hossain (1st L) and her sister Sheikh Rehana (2nd L) look on at a polling station in Dhaka on December 30, 2018. 

 

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appeared headed for a landslide win in a general election Sunday that was marred by clashes between rival supporters that killed 14 people and opposition claims of rigged voting.

Early results showed Hasina’s Awami League racing into a clear lead, quickly securing 61 seats against one for the opposition — some by tens of thousands of votes — according to Channel 24, which is compiling results from around the country.

The alliance of parties running against Hasina branded the election “farcical” and urged the country’s election commission to void the results.

“We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible,” Kamal Hossain, who heads the coalition, told reporters.

Deadly violence and bitter rivalry that marred the election campaign spilled over into voting day, even as authorities imposed tight security with 600,000 troops, police and other security forces deployed across the country.

Ten people were killed in clashes between Awami League and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters, police said, while three men were shot by police who said they were protecting polling booths.

An auxiliary police member was also killed by armed opposition activists, according to officials.

Hasina, 71, has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation during her decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

But critics accuse her of authoritarianism and crippling the opposition — including arch-rival and BNP leader Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges — to cling on to power.

The BNP-led opposition alliance Sunday accused Hasina’s party of using stuffed ballot boxes and other illegal means to fix the result, which was to be officially announced Monday.

BNP spokesman Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal told reporters there were “irregularities” in 221 of the 300 seats contested.

“Voters are not allowed to enter booths. Especially women voters are being forced to vote for the boat,” Alal said, referring to the Awami League symbol.

 ‘We’ll cast your vote’ 

Bangladesh election commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman told AFP the body had “received a few allegations of irregularities” and was investigating.

Authorities shut down high-speed internet services during polling “to prevent the spread of rumours” that could trigger unrest. One independent television news channel complained that its broadcasts were blocked.

Voting in the capital Dhaka was largely peaceful as convoys of soldiers and paramilitary forces were on the streets where most traffic was banned.

“I have never missed voting in my life. This is probably the last election for me and I want a suitable candidate for my country,” 98-year-old Abdus Salam said at a Dhaka polling station.

However, voters in provincial areas reported intimidation. Atiar Rahman said he was beaten by ruling party activists in the central district of Narayanganj.

“They told me not to bother, ‘We’ll cast your vote on your behalf’,” he told AFP.

The opposition said the unrest was stirred up to deter voters, and presiding officers reported a low turnout across the country.

Sunday’s deaths brought to 18 the official police toll for election violence since the ballot was announced on November 8.

Police said they acted “in self-defence” in the southern town of Bashkhali, when they fired on opposition supporters who stormed a polling booth, killing one.

In a separate incident, a man was shot by police after he tried to steal a ballot box.

 Free and fair?

Hasina needs 151 seats to control parliament but experts say a victory would be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung opponents.

The opposition says more than 15,000 of its activists were detained during the campaign, crushing its ability to mobilise support.

Human Rights Watch and other international groups said the crackdown created a climate of fear which could prevent opposition supporters from casting ballots.

The United States raised concerns about the credibility of the election while the United Nations called for greater efforts to make the vote fair.

Seventeen opposition candidates were arrested over what they claim are trumped-up charges while another 17 were disqualified from running by courts, which Hasina’s opponents say are government controlled.

The Bangladeshi leadership has alternated between Hasina and Zia, allies-turned-foes, over the last three decades.

Hasina rejects accusations of authoritarianism but analysts say she feared young voters would support the BNP.

Her government was criticised this year for its heavy handling of weeks of major student protests that brought Dhaka to a standstill.

Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was a gifted victory in the 2014 election when the BNP boycotted the vote claiming it was not free and fair.

Rights groups have since accused her administration of stifling freedom of speech by toughening a draconian anti-press law and the enforced disappearance of dissenters.

AFP

Bangladesh Opposition Rejects Election Results, Calls For Fresh Vote

A sealed ballot box is seen after voting ended at a polling station in Dhaka on December 30, 2018. 
Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP

 

Bangladesh’s opposition rejected election results Sunday that showed Prime Minister Sheikha Hasina heading for a landslide victory and demanded a new vote.

“We urge the election commission to void this farcial result immediately,” opposition leader Kamal Hossain told reporters.

“We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible,” he added.

AFP

Bangladesh TV Station Shut, Seven Journalists Assaulted On Election Day

Bangladeshi voters wait in line outside a polling station in Dhaka on December 30, 2018. Bangladesh headed to the polls on December 30 following a weeks-long campaign that was dominated by deadly violence and allegations of a crackdown on thousands of opposition activists.
Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP

 

A leading Bangladesh news channel was taken off the air and seven journalists were assaulted as the country voted for a new government Sunday amid allegations of a media crackdown.

The private Jamuna TV said the action was taken late Saturday.

“Cable operators took Jamuna TV off air without giving us any explanation,” Fahim Ahmed, the station’s chief news editor, told AFP.

“We are still transmitting. But no one in Bangladesh can see our channel due to the blackout,” he said. The channel’s output can still be viewed online.

The broadcaster, which is owned by Jamuna Group — one of Bangladesh’s biggest conglomerates, which also runs a newspaper — is known for its independent coverage.

Salma Islam, a member of the family that owns the group, stood in Sunday’s election as an independent candidate against an influential ruling party businessman.

A top cable operator in Dhaka said Jamuna broadcasts stopped for technical rather than political reasons.

“We are not getting their signal,” said S.M Ali Chanchal, owner of cable operator UCS. Jamuna rejected the explanation and insisted their signals were being broadcast as normal.

Authorities have also ordered the country’s mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services “to prevent the spread of rumours” that could trigger unrest.

During Sunday’s election, seven journalists said they were attacked by pro-government activists in separate scuffles, in which a number of them were injured and their equipment vandalised.

Journalists, including two from AFP, were also prevented from taking images at some polling centers by pro-government activists.

Award-winning photographer Shahidul Alam, who was released from prison last month, was also injured in a scuffle outside a polling center.

“Some pro-government activists suddenly approached and tried to snatch away our equipment. They also threw indiscriminate punches towards us,” photographer Sumon Paul, a close associate of Alam, told AFP.

An on-duty reporter and a photographer from the Bengali tabloid Manabzamin were also assaulted while covering the election in the capital Dhaka.

“They were assaulted and the photographer’s camera was snatched away,” Manabzamin editor Motiur Rahman Chowdhury said.

Another two photojournalists from the Manob Kantho local daily were also injured when they were attacked by unknown assailants.

“Some 20-30 men suddenly assaulted and started beating us. They broke our cameras as well,” photographer Jubair Rakesh told AFP.

There have been mounting accusations that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has been stifling dissent and curbing freedom of the press ahead of the vote.

Internationally renowned photographer Shahidul Alam was detained for nearly four months after he was accused of making false and provocative statements against Hasina on Facebook.

Two pro-opposition editors have been detained for months over what they say are trumped-up charges while the editors of two influential dailies were accused of sedition and scores of other defamation cases.

In recent months Hasina’s government has also strengthened a digital security law, which rights groups and journalists have said makes investigative journalism almost impossible.

AFP

12 Killed As Violence Mars Bangladesh Election

 

About 12 people have died following violence that has marred the election in Bangladesh.

The election-day clashes in Bangladesh Sunday stemmed from a bloody campaign overshadowed by a crackdown on the opposition by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is expected to win a historic but controversial fourth term.

Three men were shot by police while eight others died in clashes between activists from the ruling Awami League Party and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), police said.

An auxiliary police member was killed after being attacked by opposition activists armed with guns and sticks, according to officials.

Voting, which ended at 4:00pm (1000 GMT), was held under tight security. Polls have predicted that Hasina will clinch a third-consecutive term and record fourth overall.

Bangladesh’s leader has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation during an unbroken decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

But critics accuse her of authoritarianism and crippling the opposition — including arch-rival Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges — to cling on to power.

The election campaign was marred by violence between supporters of Hasina’s Awami League and Zia’s BNP.

Some 600,000 security personnel were deployed across the South Asian country, including at 40,000 polling stations.

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Authorities ordered mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday “to prevent the spread of rumours” that could trigger unrest.

The election-day deaths brought to 16 the official police toll for election violence since the ballot was announced on November 8.

Police said they acted “in self-defence” in the southern town of Bashkhali, when they opened fire on opposition supporters who attempted to storm a polling booth, killing one.

In a separate incident another man was shot by police after he tried to steal a ballot box.

– Free and fair? –
Opinion polls show Hasina, who has presided over six percent GDP expansion every year since she won a landslide in 2008, heading for a comfortable victory that would extend her reign as the country’s longest-serving leader.

She needs 151 seats in the first-past-the-post system to control the 300-seat parliament but experts say a victory would be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung her opponents’ campaign and scared people into voting for her.

The opposition says more than 15,000 of its activists have been detained during the weeks-long campaign, crushing its ability to mobilise grassroots support.

“We are getting disturbing reports outside Dhaka that overnight votes have been cast illegally,” said Kamal Hossain, the 82-year-old architect of Bangladesh’s constitution who is helming the opposition coalition.

Presiding officers at polling stations across Dhaka reported a low turnout.

Human Rights Watch and other international groups have decried the crackdown, saying it has created a climate of fear which could prevent opposition supporters from casting ballots.

The United States has raised concerns about the credibility of the Muslim-majority country’s election while the United Nations called for greater efforts to make the vote fair.

Seventeen opposition candidates have been arrested over what they claim are trumped-up charges while another 17 were disqualified from running by courts, which Hasina’s opponents say are government controlled.

“This is not (a) free and fair election. It is more a controlled selection,” said a Western diplomat who asked not to be named.

– Student protests –
The Bangladeshi leadership has alternated between Hasina and Zia, allies-turned-foes, over the last three decades.

Hasina rejects accusations of creeping authoritarianism but analysts say she mounted the clampdown over fears that young voters were set to hand a victory to the BNP.

Her government was criticised this year for its heavy handling of weeks of massive student protests over the abolition of job quotas and poor safety standards on Bangladesh’s dangerous roads.

Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was gifted victory in the 2014 election when the BNP boycotted the vote claiming it wasn’t free or fair.

Since then, rights groups have accused her administration of stifling freedom of speech through the toughening of a draconian anti-press law and the enforced disappearance of government dissenters.

Two Dead In Bangladesh Election Violence

Bangladesh on the map

 

Two people were killed in election-related clashes in Bangladesh on Sunday, police said, following a deadly campaign marred by outbreaks of violence.

One man died when police opened fire on opposition activists who they say had attacked a polling station in the southern town of Bashkhali.

“One person was killed from bullet wounds. We fired in self-defence,” local police chief Mohammad Kamal Hossain told AFP.

An activist for the ruling Awami League party died after he was beaten on the head by opposition supporters during a clash in the southeastern hill district of Rangamati.

“He died on the way to a hospital,” local police chief Najibul Islam told AFP.

The deaths brought to six the number of people confirmed by police to have died in violence related to Sunday’s election which is expected to see Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina win a record fourth term.

The weeks-long campaign was overshadowed by skirmishes between supporters of the Awami League and activists from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The BNP claims eight of its activists have died since the parliamentary election — the country’s 11th since independence in 1971 — was announced on November 8.

AFP

Bangladesh Slows Internet Ahead Of Election

Bangladesh on the map

 

Bangladesh’s authorities have severely restricted internet services across the country in an effort to fight “propaganda” ahead of Sunday’s general election, an official said.

At the end of an election campaign marked by deadly violence, internet services were slowed across the country with 3G and 4G services suspended for several hours, a Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) official said Friday.

“We asked telecom operators to halt 3G and 4G services temporarily on Thursday night. We have done it to prevent propaganda and misleading content spreading on the internet,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said higher speed internet services resumed on Friday morning after a 10-hour blackout but could be suspended again later in the day.

Bangladesh will hold a parliamentary election on Sunday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking a record fourth term in power.

She is being challenged by an alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which says thousands of its activists have been arrested in a nationwide crackdown during the campaign.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia was been jailed for 17 years on graft charges this year and the party says its candidates were attacked to prevent them from campaigning.

Shut out by mainstream media, the BNP has been reduced to social media such as Facebook to lobby for votes.

Its leaders have posted a series of videos to canvass support from Bangladesh’s 100 million voters ahead of the election.

Earlier this month, the BTRC blocked the BNP website along with 53 news websites and portals including several pro-BNP sites saying they spread “obscene” and malicious content.

Bangladesh, which has more than 92 million internet users, has a history of blocking websites and key social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

In August 2016, the BTRC blocked 35 websites including several popular among opposition supporters.

AFP

Bangladesh Arrests Rohingya Refugees

Bangladesh on the map

 

Bangladeshi police have arrested 10 Rohingya refugees as they were about to board a boat to travel to Malaysia, an officer said Friday.

Southeast Bangladesh is home to around a million Rohingya, most of whom fled Myanmar last year following a military crackdown and are now in vast camps.

There are fears that with the current calmer weather, many may try to reach other more prosperous countries by boat by paying often unscrupulous traffickers.

The elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said it stopped the six young women and four men at Shah Porir Dwip, a coastal station, on Thursday night before they could board a boat on the Naf river estuary dividing Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“They were about to head to Malaysia through the Bay of Bengal. The girls won’t be aged more than 22 years. They were tempted that they can get married with well-off persons in Malaysia,” RAB Cox’s Bazar chief Mahedi Hasan told AFP.

People smugglers in recent years have taken tens of thousands of Rohingya to Malaysia before Bangladesh launched a crackdown in 2015 after Thai authorities discovered mass graves and overcrowded boats drifting at sea.

Hasan said the women paid $100 each to traffickers and the men paid nearly $250. “Each of them was supposed to pay another 200,000 takas (nearly $2,500) once the boat crosses Thai waters,” he said.

A Bangladeshi trafficker was also arrested, he added.

RAB said two of those who were arrested came to Bangladesh from Myanmar in 2000-2001. The rest were part of an exodus of around 720,000 last year.

Early this month the Bangladeshi coastguard intercepted a boat in the Bay of Bengal carrying 33 Rohingya to Malaysia.

The sea tends to stay calm between November and March. During this time of year, even small boats can travel long distances via the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

AFP

Bangladesh Jails Ex-PM Over Corruption

Bangladesh on the map

 

A Bangladesh court on Monday sentenced former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia to another seven years in prison on corruption charges that her supporters say are politically motivated.

Zia, long a rival to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is already behind bars after being handed a five-year term in February on separate embezzlement charges.

That verdict triggered clashes between police and thousands of supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which Zia still leads from prison.

In her latest trial, Judge Mohammad Akhtaruzzman found the 73-year-old guilty of abuse of power and misusing 31.5 million taka ($375,000) destined for a charitable fund.

This fresh conviction is expected to further impede her chances of challenging Hasina, who has been accused of stifling her opponents, in a general election slated for December.

There was no immediate reaction from Zia’s BNP, but her lawyers have consistently described the trial as “political vengeance”.

Zia, once an ally to Hasina, boycotted the 2014 general election which saw her opponent returned to power.

Zia entered politics in the mid-1980s after her husband, a former military dictator, was assassinated in an abortive coup.

She faces dozens of separate charges related to violence and corruption that her lawyers insist are baseless.

Zia says the charges are designed to keep her family out of politics.

In recent months, her health has deteriorated inside Dhaka Central prison where she is the sole prisoner in incarceration.

She was absent from the court Monday as she was being treated in hospital for various ailments.

A special room inside the prison was converted into a makeshift court in an effort to fast-track her trial.

Her lawyers protested the move, described it as unconstitutional.

Her family suffered another political blow this month when her eldest son and heir apparent to the opposition movement, Tarique Rahman, was jailed for life in absentia.

He lives in exile in London.

Rahman was found guilty of playing key role in a 2004 grenade attack on the political rally of Hasina, which killed at least 20 people and injured the then opposition leader.

AFP

19 Sentenced To Death In Bangladesh Over Attack On PM

Bangladesh on the map

 

A Bangladesh court on Wednesday sentenced 19 people to death over a 2004 grenade attack on the current prime minister, although a top opposition leader escaped with a life sentence.

The attack in Dhaka on a rally by Sheikh Hasina, at the time in the opposition and now prime minister left her injured and killed 20 people.

Tarique Rahman, son of then-premier and Hasina’s ally-turned-archrival Khaleda Zia, was among 49 people on trial, with Rahman charged with criminal conspiracy and multiple counts of murder.

Rahman, 50, was tried in absentia after he fled the country for London in 2008.

He now leads the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) from exile after Zia was jailed in February for five years for corruption.

“We thank God for the verdict,” prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain told reporters amid tight security.

“We hoped that Tarique Rahman would get the death sentence,” he said, adding the court observed that Rahman played a key role in the attack.

Hossain said two former ministers including a powerful ex-home minister and two former heads of the country’s powerful intelligence agencies were among others handed the death sentence.

A total of 15 Islamist extremists from the banned Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), whose leader was executed in April last year, were also sentenced to death for planning and carrying out the attack.

Prosecutors said former BNP minister Abdus Salam Pintu colluded with HuJI and handed over grenades for the attack.

Hasina was addressing the rally when the grenades exploded and suffered severe injuries in one ear. Among the dead was the wife of a former president.

Four years later, Hasina stormed back to power after leading a secular coalition to a landslide victory in elections in December 2008.

Three Islamist extremists were also charged over the attack and later executed in a separate trial.

Death row 

Death sentences are common in Bangladesh, with hundreds of people on death row. All executions are by hanging, a legacy of the British colonial era.

At least nine top Islamist extremists, five leaders of the country’s largest Islamist party and a senior opposition leader have been hanged since 2007.

Home Minister Asaduzzman Khan said he was satisfied with the verdict, saying they got justice.

Rahman’s lawyer Sanaullah Mia said the charges against his client were politically motivated.

He questioned the timing of the verdict, saying it was aimed at keeping Rahman out of elections expected for December.

“There was no evidence or witness against him. No witness could say that conspiracy was hatched at Hawa Bhaban,” he told AFP, referring to a former BNP office used by Rahman.

BNP spokesman Fakhrul Islam Alamgir rejected the verdict, saying it was “a naked display of political vengeance”.

Police spokesman Sohel Rana said security was tightened in courts and across the South Asian nation to avert any violence following the verdict.

“Police are fully prepared to prevent any violence centering on the verdict,” he told AFP earlier.

Zia was transferred to hospital last weekend from the 19th-century Dhaka Central Jail, where she is the only prisoner.

She has been on trial in a special room of the prison on additional graft charges that her supporters say are politically motivated.

The 73-year-old was already suffering from health issues including arthritis, diabetes and knee replacements when she was sentenced in February.

Her party boycotted the 2014 election in which Hasina returned to power but is expected to contest the election due in December.

AFP

Bangladesh Detains Professor Over Facebook Comments On PM

Bangladesh on the map

 

A Bangladeshi university lecturer has been suspended and detained for making allegedly derogatory remarks on Facebook about the prime minister, his lawyer said Wednesday.

A ruling-party activist filed a case against Maidul Islam under Bangladesh’s notorious internet laws, which critics say are aimed at stifling dissent.

The assistant sociology professor at Chittagong University posted the comments last month during massive protests over road safety that enraged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.

“He was sent to jail on Monday after he surrendered at a court in Chittagong,” his lawyer Vulon Lal Bhowmik told AFP in the southeastern port city.

On Tuesday he was suspended by the state-run university, the lawyer and an official of the school said.

The arrest triggered protests by leftist groups who said they would organise a demonstration on Saturday.

It came weeks after a top Bangladesh photographer and activist, Shahidul Alam, was arrested and denied bail over charges he made false and provocative comments during the protests in August.

Alam had told Al Jazeera that the protests were the result of pent-up anger at corruption and an “unelected government… clinging on by brute force” that had looted banks and gagged the media.

He is also being investigated for allegedly violating Bangladesh’s internet laws, enacted in 2006 and sharpened in 2013 in the country of 165 million people.

Alam — whose work has appeared widely in Western media and who founded the renowned Pathshala South Asian Media Institute — faces a maximum 14 years in jail if convicted, along with others detained during the protests.

Bangladesh’s parliament has since ratified a new digital security law, stipulating harsher punishment, despite widespread criticism by journalists and rights groups.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday said the law strikes a blow to freedom of speech, retaining the most problematic parts of the internet law and adding more provisions criminalising peaceful speech.

In April, Bangladesh’s most prestigious university suspended a professor for writing a column critical of Hasina’s father and Bangladesh’s first post-independence president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Morshed Hasan Khan was “suspended until further notice” from Dhaka University after he allegedly defamed Rahman, in an article published in a Bengali daily.

Teachers have been punished in the past for stances critical of the former president.

In August last year, 13 high-school teachers were detained and remanded in custody ahead of a trial after being accused of sedition for remarks about him.

AFP