New Delhi: Over the past two days, Bangladesh has convicted 139 senior opposition party officials and activists, prosecutors and lawyers said on Monday. This marks an increase in the crackdown on anti-government protesters ahead of the upcoming elections, news agency AFP reports.
Those convicted included several activists of the primary opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The charges against him included historical allegations related to protest violence, arson and obstructing police.
According to AFP, the sentence handed down could range from a few months to three and a half years.
Bangladesh will hold general elections on January 7, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina eyeing a fourth consecutive term in power.
However, concerns have been raised by the United States and other countries regarding the fairness and independence of the upcoming vote.
Since last year, the BNP has organized several rallies and marches to force Hasina to step down from power and let a neutral government run elections.
Police have cracked down on the opposition since late last month, arresting almost the entire top leadership of the BNP and thousands of its activists and supporters, according to AFP.
At least 132 BNP activists and senior officials were jailed by two magistrate courts in the country’s capital Dhaka on Sunday and Monday, according to two prosecutors.
“Judge MD (Mohammed) Attaullah on Monday sentenced 70 BNP activists and leaders in four separate cases,” prosecutor Shahid Uddin told AFP. “He was found guilty of arson and obstructing police duty”.
Uddin said those punished included BNP’s influential youth wing chief Sultan Salahuddin Tuku, two former student wing chiefs and a district wing chief.
“These cases date back to 2013-2018 when the opposition conducted strikes and blockades,” Uddin said. “They received sentences ranging from six months to two years in prison.”
Dhaka’s chief public prosecutor Abdullah Abu told AFP that Judge Mohammad Sheikh Saadi sentenced an additional 62 BNP activists to three and a half years in prison in a 2018 case.