They were performing Hajj during the ‘incident’ but made accused in ‘fictitious case’

Map of Chattogram district
Prothom Alo illustration

Two leaders from the Chattogram unit of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) were named as accused in a case filed by a leader from the ruling party’s youth wing, Jubo League, on 28 July.

According to the First Information Report (FIR), the plaintiff stated that the two BNP leaders were among a group of 120 people who assaulted him with sticks and petrol bombs in the Gachhbaria area of the pourashava at 12:15 pm on 27 July.

However, the BNP leaders returned to Bangladesh on 30 July after spending one and a half months in Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj.

The case was filed at the Chandanaish police station under the Special Powers Act and Explosives Act.

The two leaders are Chandanaish upazila BNP’s joint conveners Manjur Morshed Chowdhury and Saiful Karim.

Another case was filed against 121 leaders and activists of the opposition at Hathazari police station on 27 July. They are charged with carrying explosives, vandalism, and assaulting people. The case was filed by Aiman Awsaf Chowdhury, the Joint Convener of Bangladesh Chhatra League's Government City College unit in Chattogram.

No arrest has been made so far. Police said they have been investigating into the cases.

BNP leaders have claimed the cases to be "fictitious." The convener of Chattogram south district unit of BNP, Abu Sufian, stated that the objective of such cases is to force the BNP leaders and activists to flee their homes.

Earlier, 40 leaders and activists of BNP and its front organizations, along with 320 unnamed individuals, have been implicated in a case filed in Lohagara on 14 and 22 July. The wordings in the First Information Reports (FIRs) of the two cases were nearly identical. With these two cases, a total of four such cases have been filed against leaders and activists of the de facto opposition. As a result, 621 people have been accused in these lawsuits.

Before the last parliamentary election in 2018, police filed a number of such cases across the country. As many as 232 such cases were filed at 32 police stations in Chattogram city and district from January to 15 December that year.

Attack in Chandanaish from Saudi Arabia

‘Maqaam-e-Ibrahim Hajj Kafela’ managing director and BNP leader Manjur Morshed went to Saudi Arabia on 18 June to perform the holy Hajj along with another BNP leader, Saiful Karim. They have been listed as the third and fourth accused in the case filed by Jubo League leader Shahadat Hossain. Additionally, another 80 unnamed individuals have been implicated in the case.

Prothom Alo talked to eight people at the scene of the incident on 30 July. They informed Prothom Alo that no local residents had any knowledge of the alleged incident. There were no nearby shops in the vicinity. Police prepared a list of items seized from the location, including five petrol-filled glass bottles, bamboo sticks, and other pieces of evidence.

A certain Md Aziz Hossain is a witness in the case. He told Prothom Alo that he does not know anything about the incident. Police asked him to sign a paper.

Another accused in the case is pourashava BNP’s joint convener, Iktiar Uddin. He asserted that they did not organise any rally or procession on that day.

Prothom Alo talked to Manjur Morshed over the phone on Tuesday. He stated that he returned to Bangladesh by a Biman Bangladesh Airlines plane, BG 3596, on 30 July. Saiful Karim also returned to the country by the flight BG 3960 on the same night.

Saiful Karim expressed astonishment upon learning about being implicated in the case while he was performing Hajj.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, plaintiff Shahadat Hossain said, “The incident took place” and hung up the phone without elaborating anything.

No one heard any explosion

Though it has been mentioned in the FIR at Hathazari police station that several cocktails were blasted at Charia Board School Market by Hathazari-Khagrachhari road at 11:35 at night on 26 July, local people and shopkeepers said they did not hear any explosion.

Prothom Alo talked to 10 local people including shopkeepers on 29 July night. They said they do not know anything about this. The case statement, however, said BNP leaders and activists paraded the road with a procession chanting anti-government slogans.

Later, police seized several items as evidence from the spot. Local resident ABM Ataullah was mentioned as a witness to the incident. He said to Prothom Alo that he signed on a paper when police asked him to do so.

Plaintiff BCL leader Aiman Awsaf Chowdhury declined to comment on the case when Prothom Alo contacted him.

Hathazari upazila BNP member secretary Gias Uddin claimed most of the accused, including him, were in Dhaka to join party programmes from 23-28 July. They returned Chattogram on 30 July.

Secretary of Chattogram branch of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN), Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury thought such cases will heighten enmity among the political parties.

He further said social unrest will increase as the plaintiff and accused are local people.

* The report was originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for English edition by Shameem Reza