Authorities in Bangladesh detained approximately 1,600 people between Thursday and Friday in efforts to find and detain radical Islamist militants. Police suspect [NYT report] only 37 of the detainees are more than petty criminals, none of whom are believed to be “high-level operators.” The raids were a response to multiple attacks in Bangladesh over the last few years, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has faced criticism regarding security for minorities and failure to prosecute suspects of the attacks. Victims include atheist journalists, foreign aid workers, professors, gay rights activists and religious minorities including Christians, Hindus and Shiite Muslims. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] has also criticized the government for failing to provide adequate safeguards [AI report]. Opposition groups in the country also expressed concern that the government would use campaigns like this to suppress opposition.
In April Bangladesh’s minister of law told the press that the arrest of a well-known magazine editor, Shafik Rahman, was not politically motivated [JURIST report]. Also in April former Bangladeshi prime minister Khaleda Zia surrendered to a court [JURIST report] after an arrest warrant was issued against her in connection with the firebombing bus attack last year staged in opposition of the government. In March the Bangladesh Supreme Court found two ministers guilty of contempt after they had publicly criticized the chief justice of the court [JURIST report]. Also in March the Bangladesh high court threw out a petition [JURIST report] introduced by secular activists that sought the removal of Islam as the state religion.