New Delhi: In the last two days, Bangladesh has convicted 139 senior officials and activists from the opposition party, prosecutors and lawyers said on Monday. This marks an escalation in the crackdown on anti-government protesters ahead of upcoming elections, reported news agency AFP.
Among those convicted were numerous activists from the primary opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The charges against them included historical allegations related to protest violence, arson, and obstructing the police.
The sentences handed down varied from a few months to as long as three-and-a-half years, according to AFP.
Bangladesh will hold a general election on January 7, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina eyeing her fourth consecutive term in power.
However, there are concerns expressed by the United States and other nations regarding the fairness and freedom of the upcoming vote.
Since last year, the BNP has held several rallies and marches in a bid to force Hasina to quit power and let a neutral government run the polls.
As per AFP, since late last month, the police have cracked down on the opposition, arresting almost the entire top leadership of the BNP and arresting thousands of its activists and supporters.
According to two prosecutors, at least 132 BNP activists and senior officials were jailed by two magistrate courts in the country’s capital Dhaka on Sunday and Monday.
“Judge Md (Mohammed) Ataullah sentenced 70 BNP activists and leaders in four different cases Monday,” prosecutor Shahid Uddin told AFP. “They were found guilty of arson and obstructing police duty”.
The sentenced BNP men included its influential youth wing chief Sultan Salahuddin Tuku, two former student wing chiefs, and a district wing chief, Uddin said.
“These cases are from 2013-2018 when opposition enforced strikes and blockades”, Uddin said. “They got jail terms ranging from six months to two years”.
The chief public prosecutor of Dhaka, Abdullah Abu, told AFP that Judge Mohammad Sheikh Sadi sentenced an additional 62 BNP activists to three-and-a-half years in jail each over a 2018 case.