June 29, 2010 / 12:43 PM / 10 years ago

Bangladesh Jamaat leaders held on anti-Muslim charge

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police on Tuesday arrested three top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s biggest Islamic political party, on charges of hurting religious sentiments of Muslims in a case likely to trigger protests.

Police said those arrested included Jamaat chief Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and his deputy, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid. The party condemned the arrests and said it would issue a formal complaint.

Syed Rejaul Haque Chandpuri, secretary general of the Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, another religious group, filed a complaint on March 21, saying that the Jamaat leaders had compared the party chief with the Prophet Mohammad.

In Islam, Mohammad cannot be compared with anyone.

Nizami was detained when he emerged from a Dhaka conference, prompting scuffles between supporters and police, witnesses said. No one was injured.

Police later cordoned off Jamaat’s central office, they said.

Metropolitan Magistrate Mehedi Hasan Talukder approved the arrests as the accused had failed to comply with summons to appear in court to hear the charges against them.

Police said they were looking for several other Jamaat leaders in the same case.

Jamaat is a political ally of the opposition Nationalist Party led by former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia.

Many Bangladeshis accuse Jamaat of collaborating with the Pakistani army during the 1971 war of independence.

The party in turn has accused the government of Sheikh Hasina of trying to curb its activities using war crime charges and is likely to see the arrests as a ploy to push that effort.

The “war criminals” include people who opposed the war against Pakistan and helped the Pakistani army in acts of genocide in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

According to official records, around 3 million people were killed at the hands of the Pakistani army and collaborators during the nine-month war.

Reporting by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Nick Macfie

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