Campaigns end amid unrest as Bangladesh prepares for polls

Campaigns end amid unrest as Bangladesh prepares for polls
Updated 28 December 2018
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Campaigns end amid unrest as Bangladesh prepares for polls

  • Amid international concern over events, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed for calm
  • The prime minister accused the opposition of organizing bomb attacks while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party said “the state” was aiding an assault on the opposition

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s general election campaigns ended on Thursday, with reports suggesting that at least 1,100 people had been injured in clashes between political supporters during electioneering.
The majority of those injured were reportedly supporters of the largest opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Violence has plagued the country since the first day of campaigning, Dec. 10.
Since the elections were announced on Nov. 8, around 9,200 BNP supporters, including prominent figures in the party, have been arrested, according to the BNP’s Senior Joint Secretary-General Ruhul Kabir Rizvy. Media reports suggest at least 53 candidates from the BNP-led opposition coalition, Jatiya Oikya Front (JOF), have been attacked by opponents during the 17 days since electioneering began.
On Monday, the Election Commission (EC) deployed troops on the streets in an attempt to quell the violence. But according to the JOF, attacks on its candidates have remained a daily occurrence. Two supporters of the ruling Awami League (AL) have also been killed during campaign clashes.
During the same period, the High Court has barred 17 BNP candidates from running in the election due to non-compliance with Bangladesh’s election code, which states that any parliamentary candidate who holds a public office must submit a resignation letter to the relevant authority ahead of filing candidature, something all 17 candidates failed to do. Two AL candidates have also been declared ineligible to run in Sunday’s general elections.
According to Rizvy, 806 “ghost cases” have been filed against BNP activists, and 2,716 attacks have taken place at JOF rallies around the country. “The government is applying all its power to oust the BNP and JOF from the election,” he claimed at a press conference in Dhaka on Thursday. “Our activists are targeted from rally footage.”
The EC, however, has stated that the situation is “under control.”
Talking to reporters at his office in Dhaka on Thursday, election commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury said, “I admit that anxiety around the election has grown. I want to term it political heat.” He insisted, however, that there would be a “free and fair” election on Dec. 30.
However, one of Chowdhury’s colleagues, Mahbub Talukder, said on Wednesday that he had “grave concerns” about Sunday’s elections.
“If we cannot hold a peaceful election in a violence-free environment after 47 years of independence, the sacrifice of 30 lakh martyrs for independence and democracy will go in vain. We cannot allow this to happen,” Talukder said.
And BNP Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters in his constituency of Thakurgaon on Thursday that he does not believe a “fair election” is possible under the current government.
“The election process has turned into a farce,” he said. “No election atmosphere is prevailing in the country as all the attacks are made on BNP people. It’s very unfortunate and unimaginable that these attacks are being sponsored by the state itself.”  However, he added, “We’re in the election and will remain there till the end.”
Meanwhile, the AL claims that the BNP and JOF are contriving to foil the election with false claims.
“Oikya Front will try different tricks and instigations to thwart the polls,” Obaidul Quader, general-secretary and deputy head of the AL said at a rally in his constituency of Noakhali on Thursday. “Beware of their traps and continue working patiently for the next three days to hold the election.” holding the election with patience.” Political experts in the country pointed out that election clashes are “nothing new” in Bangladesh. “Earlier also the country witnessed election clashes,” said Prof. Amanullah Ferdous of Dhaka University. “But the intensity of attacks on opposition contenders is something new in this election.” However, he stressed that the situation was still not as bad as those seen in India and Pakistan during election campaigns.
“If the voters can apply their rights on election day it will be a tough competition between the AL and BNP,” he told Arab News. “But if the voter turnout is low, there will be fears of vote rigging.”
On Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres took to Twitter to express his concern over the election clashes. He urged all stakeholders “to ensure an environment free of violence, intimidation, and coercion; before, during and after the upcoming election in Bangladesh.”


Flight attendant detained by immigration on return to US

Updated 14 min 44 sec ago
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Flight attendant detained by immigration on return to US

  • Selene Saavedra Roma immigrated illegally to the US from Peru as a child and was later married to an American citizen
  • Enrolled in the government’s program for “Dreamers”, she flew to Mexico for work and was detained due to lack of valid document

WASHINGTON: A Texas flight attendant who was enrolled in the government’s program for “Dreamers” flew to Mexico for work and was stopped by immigration authorities who forced her to spend more than a month in detention, her attorney said.
Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, who immigrated illegally to the US as a child, was released Friday from a detention center in Conroe, Texas, according to a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Originally from Peru and married to an American citizen, she raised concerns with Mesa Airlines about her immigration status after being assigned to an international flight, attorney Belinda Arroyo said.
The airline assured her she would be fine, but she was stopped by US authorities on Feb. 12, when she returned to Houston, and was sent to detention, where she remained for more than five weeks, Arroyo said.
Soon after her lawyer, her husband, the airline and a flight attendants’ group publicly demanded her release, Saavedra Roman called to tell her husband she was getting out.
“She was crying and she said, ‘Please come get me,’” her husband, David Watkins, told reporters.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency was looking into her status. Earlier, the agency said Saavedra Roman did not have a valid document to enter the country and was being detained while going through immigration court proceedings.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services — the agency that oversees the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — declined to discuss the case. But the agency says on its website that participants who travel outside the country without a special document allowing them to do so are no longer covered by the program.
The agency no longer issues the document to the program’s enrollees, according to the website.
People enrolled in the program are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.
The Trump administration sought to end the Obama-era program but was blocked by litigation. New applications have been halted, but renewals continue for hundreds of thousands of immigrants already enrolled.
In a joint statement with the Association of Flight Attendants, Mesa Airlines chief executive Jonathan Ornstein apologized to Saavedra Roman and asked US authorities to release her, arguing that it was unfair to continually detain someone “over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding.”
“She should have never been advised that she could travel,” Arroyo said. “It was a big mistake.”
Saavedra Roman — who is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April — attended Texas A&M University, where she met her husband.
Watkins said he was not initially worried about her assignment because they already obtained approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for her green card as the wife of an American citizen. She has no criminal record and has long paid her taxes, he said, and she checked with her employer before the trip.
Then she was detained. He could visit her only once a week and could only see her through thick glass. She sounded hopeless, he said.
“I told her, ‘Even if you get deported to Peru, I’ll just go with you,’” he said to reporters. “Regardless of whatever happens in the future, I am not giving up. I am going to keep fighting.”
In a statement, the union representing Saavedra Roman and her colleagues said the event “highlights the urgency of commonsense immigration reform and resolution for America’s children who are part of DACA.”