Bangladesh court seeks arrest of Khaleda Zia over bus attack

DHAKA (TIP): A Bangladeshi court on March 28 issued arrest warrants for former prime minister Khaleda Zia and 27 other opposition party leaders on accusations they instigated an arson attack on a passenger bus during an anti-government protest last year. Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge Kamrul Hossain Mollah made the order after accepting the charges pressed by detectives that Zia instigated the violence when she asked her supporters to enforce a blockade to remove the administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Defence lawyers argued the case was politically motivated and the accused were not involved in any violence during the three months of protests that paralyzed the country beginning in early January a year ago. Prosecutors argued that during the protest some 150 people died, mostly in fire bombings by unidentified attackers, and Zia and her colleagues must take responsibility. The January 23 attack on a bus in Dhaka’s Jatrabari area killed one person and injured 30 others.

It is unlikely that Zia will be arrested anytime soon. She could seek interim bail from the high court and such political cases usually get prolonged. The judge asked police to report to the court on April 27 on what has been done to execute the warrants. The protest and blockade came as Hasina’s government marked its first anniversary of returning to power. The January 2014 election was boycotted by Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its partners, including the country’s largest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami.