Top Bangladesh politician snared in anti-corruption crackdown

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, center, last month launched an anti-corruption crackdown, saying it was necessary to prevent a repeat of the January 2007 coup by the military. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2019

Top Bangladesh politician snared in anti-corruption crackdown

DHAKA: A prominent Bangladesh ruling party politician with alleged links to the capital’s underworld was arrested on Sunday in a sweeping anti-graft drive championed by the prime minister, amid corruption accusations against her government.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last month launched the crackdown, saying it was necessary to prevent a repeat of the January 2007 coup by the powerful military, which said tackling corruption was one of its key goals.
The high-profile head of the Dhaka youth wing of Hasina’s Awami League party, Ismail Hossain Samrat, was arrested with one of his associates, Bangladesh’s elite security force said.
“Samrat was arrested over concrete charges,” the Rapid Action Battalion spokesman Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan said, but did not reveal what he was accused of.
“He has been linked with operating casinos in sports clubs in Dhaka,” a senior RAB officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Local media allege Samrat is an underworld kingpin who uses his political influence to run a network of illegal casinos and extortion rackets.
He is the most senior politician to be caught in the new graft dragnet, which has also nabbed 260 others — including at least three ruling party officials.
As part of the drive, security forces have also sealed off nearly a dozen illegal casinos in the capital.
Gambling is illegal in the conservative Muslim majority country, but gangsters are accused of introducing casino equipment such as gaming tables in some well-known sports clubs.
Immediately after his arrest, the youth wing of the ruling party expelled him for anti-social activities and breaching party discipline.
The government banned him from travel last month.
Last month, Hasina sacked two senior members of the powerful student wing of her party after they were accused of extorting large sums from a state-run university.
Since coming to power for the second time in 2009, Hasina has run the country with an iron fist, cracking down on opposition parties and jailing her main rival Khaleda Zia, who has led Bangladesh twice.
Her government has also tried and executed top Islamist leaders over war crimes.
But in recent months, opposition parties have accused Hasina’s administration and ruling party of unbridled corruption and of extorting money from government projects and laundering billions to offshore accounts.


China accuses US of harassing Chinese students, researchers

Updated 03 August 2020

China accuses US of harassing Chinese students, researchers

BEIJING: China on Monday accused the United States of “monitoring, harassing and willfully detaining” Chinese students and researchers in the US
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s comments follow the denial of a bail request in California for a university researcher accused of lying about her ties to China’s military and governing Communist Party to gain access to the United States.
Wang also criticized the Trump administration for imposing sanctions on a major paramilitary organization in the country’s western Xinjiang region and on two officials for alleged human rights abuses against ethnic and religious minorities.
Wang said China had no intention of helping Juan Tang escape from the United States, but did not otherwise comment directly on the accusations against her.
However, he said China urges the US to “handle the case fairly in accordance with the law and ensure the safety and legitimate rights and interests” due to Tang.
“For some time, the US, with ideological prejudice, keeps monitoring, harassing and willfully detaining Chinese students and researchers, and making presumptions of guilt against Chinese researchers,” Wang said.
“The US actions have seriously violated the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and severely disrupted the normal cultural and personnel exchanges between China and the US, which amounts to outright political persecution,” he said.
In denying bail, US Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes said Tang, 37, would have reason to leave the country if released. Tang has been held without bail since July 23 when she was arrested after she left the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to seek medical care for her asthma.
Tang, who has a doctorate in cellular biology, entered the United States on Dec. 27, 2019, to work at the University of California, Davis, as a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Alexandra Negin, an assistant federal public defender, said in her filing asking the court for her release on bail. The lab closed because of the coronavirus pandemic and Tang had been preparing to return to China, Negin said.
Tang and three other scientists living in the US face charges of lying about their status as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army, or PLA. All were charged with visa fraud, the Justice Department said.
Tang was the last of the four to be arrested after the Justice Department accused the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco of harboring a known fugitive.
Negin said Tang went to the consulate to seek help and remained there after FBI agents questioned her at her Davis apartment on June 20 and executed a search warrant, seizing her passport and visa.
Agents found photographs of Tang in a uniform of the civilian cadre of the PLA and also reviewed articles from China that identified her military affiliation. Negin argued that the evidence against Tang is based on old photographs from when she was a student at a medical school run by the military and documents that were translated on apps.
Wang said the US State and Treasury Department penalties targeting the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps “seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs and violated the basic norms of international relations.”
The sanctions hit the corps, its commander and former political commissar for alleged abuses against Uighur Muslims, including mass arbitrary detentions, forced labor and torture. They freeze any assets the targets may have in US jurisdictions, and perhaps more significantly, bar Americans from doing business with them,
Wang repeated China’s assertion that it has been acting against violence, terrorism and separatism and that “Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnic groups, or religions at all.”
China has used that in an attempt to deflect international condemnation of its internment of more than 1 million Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in prison-like camps that it calls re-education and job training centers, along with other abuses.
The corps acts like a parallel government in the vast, resource-rich region, operating its own schools, courts and a large network of businesses.