Bangladesh election will take place as scheduled, says PM

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. (Reuters)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Bangladesh election will take place as scheduled, says PM

DHAKA: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Monday that her government will hold a general election by the end of this year, as scheduled.

“The election will take place on time and the people will exercise their voting rights,” Hasina said.

The prime minister was speaking at a press conference on her return home from an official visit to Italy and the Vatican.

Hasina addressed threats from the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) that it will boycott the election unless its chairperson, Begum Khaleda Zia, is released from prison.

Zia — who was herself prime minister of Bangladesh from 1991 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2006 — was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement on Feb. 8.

Hasina was keen to stress that the government had nothing to do with Zia’s sentence.

“The court has awarded imprisonment to Zia,” she said. “Our government did not dictate the verdict. The case was not even filed by the ruling party. It was filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission during the previous caretaker government.”

Hasina also said that the BNP was free to boycott the upcoming election, as it did the last one.

“Elections are a democratic right of the people,” she said. “If (the BNP doesn’t) participate in the election, we have nothing to do (with that decision). Here, we have a multi-party democracy.”

Zia’s adviser, the former MP Joynal Abedin Faruk, however, believes that such a scenario would be an embarrassment to Hasina and her government both nationally and internationally.

“Our chairperson is in prison now. Right at this moment our target is to set her free through a legal process,” he said, adding: “The BNP will not take part in any election without Begum Zia.”

Professor Ataur Rahman, a political analyst and president of the Bangladesh Political Science Association, believes Hasina and her party will do their utmost to ensure the BNP take part in the election.

“I definitely believe there will be a way out,” he told Arab News. “I believe there will be a positive result. The government will want to bring the BNP into the election process, but after weakening (its) political strength.”

He added that the BNP would want to “keep its existence as a political party,” and would not “waste this chance.”

BNP lawyers said on Monday that they would file a petition for bail for Zia on Tuesday, and they expected it to be granted soon.


Philippines: 66 alleged militants convicted in kidnappings

Updated 14 December 2018
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Philippines: 66 alleged militants convicted in kidnappings

  • Nearly 100 people were charged in the kidnappings
  • 52 people were kidnapped in March of 2000, including two teachers who were beheaded by the extremist group

MANILA: A Philippine court has found 66 alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf guilty of kidnapping dozens of students, teachers and a Catholic priest in the south in 2000, in the largest single conviction involving the brutal Muslim militant group.
The Regional Trial Court branch 261 on Friday acquitted 20 other people who have languished in jail for several years while insisting they were innocent in the brazen March 2000 kidnappings of 52 people, mostly young students at two schools on Basilan island. Two kidnapped teachers were beheaded and a priest died while in the custody of the militants.
Nearly 100 people were charged in the kidnappings. An Associated Press investigation in 2014 indicated that dozens of people were detained without strong evidence.