Bangladesh police swooped on the offices of the country’s main opposition leader hunting “anti-state documents” on Saturday, sparking angry protests by hundreds of party supporters.
Officials smashed locks to enter the office of two times former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in Dhaka, in what her party claimed was the latest politically-motivated move against the country’s embattled opposition as it prepares for the next general election.
Hundreds of supporters of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) rushed to the site after news spread about the raid and staged a protest outside the two-storey office building in the upscale Gulshan neighbourhood.
Dozens of police scoured the building for two hours but later said they “have not found any materials” in the search.
“We entered the office following a court order to search for anti-state and anti-government documents,” Gulshan police chief Abu Baker Siddique told AFP.
The BNP said the drive was part of “a conspiracy” against Zia who is facing about three dozen cases of alleged graft, treason and violence.
“This is a politically motivated raid by the government. It is a move to taint our party leader’s image,” BNP spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told AFP.
Rizvi said police disabled close circuit cameras in the office during the operation as well as breaking door locks.
In recent months BNP has held meetings across to mobilise supports and prepare the party for the next general election, which is due in January 2019, but analysts have said may be held sometime next year.
The BNP opted to boycott the last polls in 2014 over fears it would be rigged, allowing Zia’s bitter rival Sheikh Hasina’s party to win without even contesting most of the parliamentary seats.
Since then opposition officials have said tens of thousands of their activists and supporters have been arrested and prosecuted by the government.