Bangladesh orders censor of opposition chief speeches

Tarique Rahman is a leading figure and staunch critic of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

August 28, 2023 10:26 pm | Updated 10:26 pm IST - Dhaka

A Bangladesh court ordered the state-run telecoms regulator to delete speeches of an exiled opposition leader from social media as the country readies for general elections, officials said on Monday.

Tarique Rahman, 55, acting chairman of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is a leading figure and staunch critic of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, but the London-based politician must address his supporters remotely.

The BNP and its allies have staged a series of protests since last year demanding Hasina step down and allow a caretaker government to oversee the general elections due by the end of January.

"The High Court ordered the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission remove the speeches and remarks of Tarique Rahman from social media", Deputy Attorney General Bipul Bagmar told AFP.

The order bolsters a 2015 ruling that banned the publishing and broadcasting of speeches by Rahman in domestic media after he was accused of making "derogatory" remarks against Hasina's father, Bangladesh's first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

BNP legal chief Kayser Kamal called the order "unconstitutional, biased and politically motivated".

Mr. Rahman has accused Ms. Hasina of vote rigging and human rights abuses during her nearly 15-year-long stay in power.

Western governments have expressed concern over the political climate in Bangladesh, where the ruling party dominates the legislature and runs it virtually as a rubber stamp.

Earlier this month, Mr. Rahman was sentenced in absentia to nine years jail for corruption, triggering protests from hundreds of supporters who called the trial politically motivated.

Mr. Rahman, based in London since 2008, had already been given a life sentence in 2018 for his role in a 2004 grenade attack that killed more than 20 people during a political rally for then-opposition leader Hasina. Rahman's mother Khaleda Zia was premier at the time.

Two-time former premier Zia is under effective house arrest after she was sentenced to 17 years in jail in two separate graft cases in 2018.

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