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DHAKA: Bangladeshi police said on Tuesday that they had arrested the chief of the country’s largest Islamist party, days after it announced it would join the main opposition in protests to oust Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Counter-terrorism officers arrested Jamaat-e-Islami party emir Shafiqur Rahman in Dhaka, metropolitan police spokesman Faruq Ahmed said, without elaborating on the charges. A spokesman for Jamaat — the country’s third-largest political party, which has been banned from contesting elections since 2012 — condemned the 64-year-old’s arrest, saying it was intended to “scuttle the opposition’s anti-government movement”.

“This is just another episode of the unjust oppression continuing against the party for the last 15 years,” Matiur Rahman Akand, Jamaat’s publicity secretary, told AFP. For years, Jamaat was a major ally of the right-of-centre main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and their coalition ruled the country between 2001-2006.

But after Hasina came to power in 2009, Jamaat’s entire leadership was arrested and tried for war crimes dating back to the country’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

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