April 26, 2004

Mass arrests to tackle the opposition movement

It is now confirmed that nearly 15,000 people have reportedly been detained since April 18 by the police to intimidate the opposition activists. Their aim is to arrest mainly the main opposition Awami League workers to foil its oust government movement and the April 30 deadline for the government to resign. But the detainees in fact are mostly young peasants, day laborers bound for the capital via Bus or train, NGO workers etc. The police are using the Special Powers Act (SPA) of 1974 (section 54) for the arrests, which allows authorities to detain any person without a warrant or a magistrate's permission; mere suspicion is a satisfactory cause. Detention under the SPA should last no longer than one month, but is commonly extended indefinitely, and grossly misused.

Police sources said nearly 15,000 people were picked from areas under 22 police stations in the capital alone since the drive began on the night of April 18. Of them, 7785 were arrested till yesterday and the rest were released. Sources said all district administrations were instructed to ensure that the detainees do not get bail before expiry of the AL's April 30 deadline to unseat the government. (reports The Daily Star)

"The arrests were made upon intelligence reports that some people might try to sneak into the capital to carry out subversive activities," says a Police spokesman. The Jails are in appalling condition failing to mange the growing number of detainees. Usually over 10,000 prisoners are kept in the central jail, but for the last few days the number went up to 13,000.

Reports also came that the police is taking bribes to release the detainees who mostly do not have any specific charges. There are middlemen who are negotiating with the detainees that if they get released, they will have to be paid Tk. 2000-5000 which will cover all the bribes and expenses. For the poor people it is a lot. Actually this is why the Police are picking up only the poor ones. Otherwise they would be challenged or sued for apprehending them without a cause.

Now it seems that the govt. is getting away with this crime by indiscriminately arresting many people. What they are not realizing that these have created a panic among many voters (mostly who are peasants), who will certainly take a note of it and give their verdict in time.


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