November 15, 2018 / 10:47 AM / 25 days ago

Bangladesh police detain scores of opposition supporters after violence

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police on Thursday detained at least 60 supporters of the main opposition party following violence in the capital Dhaka, triggering accusations that the ruling party is trying to weaken its rivals ahead of a general election next month.

The detentions followed altercations on Wednesday between police and supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who were accompanying an election candidate who was picking up nomination papers from party offices in the city.

General elections are invariably volatile in Bangladesh, where politics has for more than two decades been dominated by the rivalry between two women leaders - Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister, and former premier Khaleda Zia.

Those detained were identified through video footage of the Wednesday violence, Mohammad Asaduzzaman Mia, commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told reporters.

“We have identified half of them who were directly involved,” Mia said, adding that at least 60 were held.

“All of them belong to the BNP or its different front organisations.”

Police accused the opposition supporters of attacking police and their vehicles. BNP leaders denied that.

Rizvi Ahmed, a senior joint secretary general of BNP, said it was all a plot by the government to stop the party from contesting the Dec. 30 election.

Obaydul Quader, general secretary of ruling Awami League, dismissed that.

Bangladesh’s last election, in 2014, which the BNP boycotted, was marred by deadly violence and criticised by international observers as flawed.

Reporting By Serajul Quadir; Editing by Robert Birsel

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