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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Bangladesh defends crackdown
Rioters hurl firebombs during protests several years ago
Law and order was seen to be spiralling out of control
The Bangladesh Government has rejected allegations that the massive army drive to stamp out crime is a form of "state terrorism" against the opposition.

A senior Home Ministry official, M Kamaluddin, told a news conference in Dhaka that the campaign had turned into "state terrorism, but against the terrorists".

This is total harassment. I want justice

Rehana Chowdhary, wife of jailed opposition figure
His remarks came as the opposition called a half-day strike on Thursday to step up its protest against the drive.

Five people have died in army custody, as it continues the country-wide raids on those suspected of criminal links.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested in the security operation in which nearly 40,000 army troops are taking part.

Those arrested include ruling party activists and there are signs of growing resentment within their ranks as well.

Harassment alleged

A group of pro-government city councillors threatened action if the security forces did not stop "harassing" them.

On Wednesday, the army arrested another pro-government city councillor in Dhaka, the fifth elected city councillor to be arrested by security forces in the operation.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
The PM's supporters are among those arrested
About two dozen Bangladeshi opposition MPs met the speaker of the parliament to protest against the arrest of their colleagues and army raids on their homes.

One of those arrested includes Saber Hossain Chowdhary, the political secretary to the leader of the opposition, Sheikh Haseena Wajed.

His wife, Rehana Chowdhary, said he was being denied any form of legal representation.

"In the police station he is left like a normal criminal. This is total harassment. I want justice," Mrs Chowdhary told the BBC.

Growing criticism

There have been allegations that the armed forces are using excessive force during the raids, and torturing many people during interrogation.

But the government and the army deny the accusations, insisting the crackdown is only aimed at improving law and order.

A total of 2,460 murders were recorded in Bangladesh in the first nine months of 2002 - almost a 10% increase on the previous year.

In September, the United Nations issued a detailed report strongly urging the Bangladeshi Government to reform the country's criminal justice system.

See also:

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