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Bangladesh: Opposition protesters clash with police

July 29, 2023

Protesters called on Prime Minister Hasina to step down and form a caretaker government to lead the country during next year's elections. Several Western countries have condemned Hasina's government over rights abuses.

Policemen disperse the supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) from Shonir Akhra area during staging sit-in rallies on the main entry points of the capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 29, 2023.
Opposition protesters calling on the prime minister to step down clashed with security forcesImage: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/REUTERS

Bangladesh police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse opposition protesters who pelted them with rocks, calling for the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down.

Protesters support the country's opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which has organized a number of rallies since last year demanding Hasina's resignation. The party is calling for a neutral caretaker government to instead shepherd the country to next January's elections.

Hasina has rejected the calls and intends to run for a fourth term.

Bangladesh protesters seek fresh elections

What happened during the protest?

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Saturday, attempting to block several entry points to the capital Dhaka. Some used rocks against police forces and their vehicles, who fired tear gas and charged batons to disperse them, the police said.

Faruk Hossain, a spokesman of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said at least 90 activists were arrested during the protests, while the BNP put the number at some 124. Two senior leaders were also detained briefly, only to be later released.

Police fire tear gas during sit-in rallies of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on the main entry points of the capital Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 29, 2023.
Police used tear gas to disperse rock-pelting protestersImage: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/REUTERS

"Our force was attacked without any reason. They were only trying to ease the traffic flow," Hossain was quoted as saying. "We had to fire tear gas and rubber bullets to control the situation."

Hossain added that some 20 officers where injured. The BNP said over 100 of its activists were injured.

Meanwhile, senior BNP leader Abdul Moyeen Khan denounced the police action as an "injustice." He told the Reuters news agency that the actions against Saturday's protests "only confirmed the autocratic nature of the ruling regime and fully exposes their motives to remain in power through a rigged election."

Why is the opposition calling on Hasina to step down?

The BNP has accused Hasina of rigging the 2018 vote. The prime minister's main rival, former premier and BNP leader Khaleda Zia, has since been convicted on graft charges and effectively placed under house arrest.

Western governments and rights groups criticize Hasina's administration for cracking down on anti-government protests.

The authorities are accused of authoritarianism, human rights abuses, forcibly dissapearing and killing dissidents and cracking down on free speech.

Bangladesh elite anti-terror unit accused of killings

rmt/jcg (AFP, AP, Reuters)