Wife fears for missing Bangladesh opposition spokesperson


DHAKA: Bangladesh’s main opposition party accused the security services Monday of abducting its top spokesperson after he was allegedly picked up by plain-clothes detectives from a hideout nearly a week ago.

Salahuddin Ahmed took over as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) spokesperson in January when his predecessor was arrested for inciting violence at the start of a transport blockade called by the BNP leader Khaleda Zia.

“Ahmed has been picked up, blindfolded and led by law-enforcing agencies and we believe he is still in their custody. He should be freed or brought to a court,” Zia’s aide Shimul Biswas told foreign sources.

Ahmed’s wife Hasina Ahmed said detectives had last Tuesday raided the house where her husband has been hiding in recent weeks and then taken him to an undisclosed destination.

A janitor at the house in Dhaka’s Uttara suburb told reporters up to four plainclothes policemen who identified themselves as detectives had led a blindfolded detainee to a minibus.

However national police chief Shahidul Haque on Saturday denied that police or any other law-enforcing agencies had abducted Ahmed.

“Police have submitted reports on Ahmed to the High Court in which they have said they did not arrest him and Ahmed is not in their custody,” deputy attorney general Mohammad Bashirullah told foreign sources.

Ahmed is one of scores of BNP officials to have disappeared in recent months.

Although the government has denied any role in the disappearances, rights groups claim the officials were picked up by the security forces on the instructions of their political masters.

Rights advocates fear they may have been killed or are being held without trial.

Ahmed’s wife said she now feared for her husband’s life, telling foreign sources: “If he’s accused of anything they should prosecute him, but please keep him alive.”

Ahmed was a three times former member of parliament and was also a communications minister when Zia was prime minister from 2001 to 2006.

More than 100 people have been killed since Zia called the transport blockade as part of a campaign to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to hold fresh elections, which are not otherwise due until 2019.

The BNP and 19 other parties boycotted the last elections in January 2014 over fears that they would be rigged.

Zia, a two-time former premier who faces an arrest warrant on corruption charges, has been holed up in her leadership compound since January.

Addressing the media last week for the first time since she called for the transport blockade, she accused Sheikh Hasina of turning the country into a one-party state by refusing her calls for new polls.