Opposition activists held over policeman’s death in Bangladesh protest

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh police said on Sunday they arrested two opposition activists over the death of a policeman in violent protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The officer was beaten and bludgeoned to death on Saturday by a mob, photos and videos showed, as tens of thousands joined demonstrations in the capital Dhaka, led by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

More than 100 people, including police and journalists, were hurt and multiple vehicles torched.

As security forces patrolled Dhaka on Sunday during a countrywide strike called by the BNP, police said they had arrested two activists over the officer’s death and also picked up party secretary general Mirza Alamgir for questioning.

“We’ll ensure toughest punishment for those who were involved in the killing,” Dhaka metropolitan police commissioner Habibur Rahman told reporters.

A police source said one of the two arrested was a BNP youth leader while the other’s affiliation was unconfirmed.

The BNP did not comment on the officer’s death but called on supporters to block streets for three days from Tuesday in protest at the detentions. It said one of its activists was also killed by gunshots in Saturday’s protests though police and doctors said he had a heart attack.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said cases were being filed over the violence, while Bangladeshis fretted about the political turmoil and spiralling cost of living.

“How will we survive? Every price is skyrocketing. How will we save our families?” said day labourer Mizanur Rahman.

Critics accuse Hasina, in power since 2009, of authoritarianism, election rigging and rights violations including jailing of opponents. She denies that.

The BNP wants Hasina to step down and for the next parliamentary election, due in January 2024, to be held under a neutral caretaker government, a demand her government has rejected.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)