Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Bangladeshi government bans all political activity

GRAFT CRACKDOWN The security forces were also preparing to make more arrests and an official said that a list of another 50 suspects was now complete

AFP , DHAKA

Bangladesh imposed a complete ban on political activity late on Thursday as the outgoing prime minister's son was remanded in custody after his arrest in an intensified anti-graft crackdown.

The military-backed interim government had outlawed all street protests, meetings or gatherings when emergency rule was imposed on Jan. 11, but stopped short of banning so-called "indoor" political activities.

"But recently it has been observed that some political parties have been misusing this flexibility," the government's home ministry said in a statement.

"Therefore, until further order, all political activities including indoor politics, all kinds of rallies, meetings and gatherings have been banned across the country," it said.

"The government will take stern action against anyone who breaches this order," it added.

The order was the latest tough move by the interim government which has also launched an anti-graft drive in a bid to clean up politics and hold free and fair elections.

It took power in January after scheduled polls were canceled and emergency rule imposed amid violent street protests between feuding political parties.

Amid massive security a magistrate in the capital Dhaka gave police four days to question Tareque Rahman, son of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia and slain former president Ziaur Rahman, in a US$145,000 extortion case, police officer Obaidul Haque said.

Rahman, dubbed the "crown prince" by the media, has been widely accused of graft. He was described by one critic as "the epicenter of crime and corruption" during his mother's five-year premiership.

He was detained early on Thursday as part of a string of detentions in overnight raids which also saw the residence of Sheikh Hasina Wajed, leader of the main opposition Awami League, searched.

"We sought five-day remand but the court granted four days," said Haque.

Rahman, who was taken to court wearing a helmet and bullet-proof vest, had been tipped as a successor to Zia, whose party led a coalition government until last October, when it handed power to an interim government tasked with holding elections.

He holds the position of BNP senior joint secretary and analysts have said he was being groomed for the leadership.

The current interim government was also preparing to make more arrests as part of its anti-graft drive, a senior security official said, adding that a second list of 50 high-profile corruption suspects headed by Rahman had been drawn up.

"There are specific charges of corruption against them and they will be arrested to face charges," he said.

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