Bangladeshi police arrest newspaper publisher linked to opposition ahead of elections

  • The publisher of the English-language New Nation daily has been accused of defamation amid concerns of a government crackdown on dissent
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 5:13am

A prominent lawyer and newspaper publisher who is tied to Bangladesh’s political opposition has been arrested on defamation charges amid concern the government is cracking down on dissent ahead of national elections, police said on Tuesday.

Detectives arrested Moinul Hosein late on Monday after raiding an opposition leader’s home in the capital, said Mahbub Alam, a joint commissioner of the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

Hosein is the publisher of the English-language New Nation daily and heads its editorial board. He appeared in court on Tuesday and his bail request was denied.

Alam said the warrant issued by a court in northern Bangladesh on Monday involved a television talk show appearance during which Hosein called a journalist “characterless” after she asked him if he represented the Jamaat-e-Islami party to a recently formed opposition alliance.

Details of the charges were not immediately clear, including whether they were related to a recently passed digital security law.

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The head of the alliance is another prominent lawyer and head of a smaller party, Kamal Hossain, who was chosen by prominent opposition figures and civil society members including Hosein.

The main party in the alliance is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is now in jail for corruption and whose elder son is the party’s heir apparent and would face prison himself if he returned from London, where he lives.

Recently a court in Dhaka sentenced Tarique Rahman to life in prison for a 2004 grenade attack on then-opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister, in which 24 people were killed. Hasina narrowly escaped.

The opposition alliance was formed this month in hopes of defeating the ruling alliance of Hasina in the next elections, which are expected to be held in December.

Jamaat-e-Islami is a close allay of Zia’s party, and Hasina’s government has executed almost all the party’s top leaders for their role in killings, arson and rape during Bangladesh’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971.

Hosein is a critic of Hasina.

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He was a former adviser to an army-backed caretaker government in 2006-2008 when both Hasina and Zia were arrested before Hasina came out and won the elections in 2008 to form the government.

Hosein’s arrest came hours after Hasina criticised his comment against the journalist and asked female journalists to file defamation charges against him.

The government has recently passed a digital security law, despite widespread criticism by journalists and rights groups that it would be used against freedom of speech and press freedom. The government says it has been enacted to protect the country from misinformation and propaganda.