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Bangladesh Court Orders Arrest of Opposition Leader

FILE - Bangladesh's former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia holds a black flag as she stands at her office in Dhaka, Jan. 5, 2015. A court issued an arrest warrant for Zia on March 30, 2016, over the 2015 fire-bombing of a bus that killed two people and injured many others.

A court in Bangladesh issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Khaleda Zia Wednesday over the 2015 fire-bombing of a bus that killed two people and injured many others.

Zia and 27 other leaders from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party are accused of instigating the bombing during an event last year that saw protesters across the country blockade roads and strike in an effort to topple the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“The court passed the order after accepting the charges against them," said public prosecutor Shah Alam Talukdar. Talukdar also said Zia is the main suspect accused in the case.

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a spokesperson for the opposition party, though, called the charges “laughable.” He said the charges were completely politically motivated and “part of a deep conspiracy against [Zia].”

Zia and Hasina are long-time political rivals, and have alternated as the country’s prime minister for the past 20 years. Both are also related to former national leaders.

The protests last year led to a wave of violence that left more than 120 people dead and another 15,000 opposition supporters were arrested. Protesters launched firebomb attacks on buses and trucks and police responded in turn by shooting at them with live ammunition.

This isn’t the first time Hasina’s government has issued an arrest warrant for Zia. Another was issued last year, but police never acted to execute the warrant. It is unclear at this point whether police will execute the new warrant either.

After hearing the news of the newest arrest warrant, opposition party supporters numbering nearly 200 poured into the streets in front of their party headquarters to protest the decision.

Police responded to the outburst, but “they moved back to the party office before police reached the spot, assistant commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Saifur Rahman told AFP.

Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, another opposition party official, was arrested Wednesday on separate charges related to the 2015 firebombing incidents. He was quickly granted bail due to health concerns.

Some material for this report came from AFP and Reuters.