Bangladesh police on Monday named a second editor as a suspect in an alleged plot to kill the prime minister’s son, amid fears by rights groups of a crackdown on the press.
Mahmudur Rahman already faces 75 cases of sedition and other charges after authorities in 2013 shut down his Amar Desh newspaper for allegedly inciting religious tension.
But Rahman, known for his pro-opposition views, had been expected to be released from jail in coming days after being bailed on the most serious offences.
Rahman’s lawyer Syed Zainul Abedin called the fresh case “politically motivated”, saying the government was trying to keep him in jail as long as possible.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder said Rahman was effectively rearrested on Monday after being named in the alleged conspiracy to kidnap and kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son, Sajeeb Wazed.
“Police have filed an application to the court to show him arrested in this case,” Sorder told AFP, adding that hearings would be held next week.
An elderly pro-opposition editor was arrested on Saturday on the same charge, the latest in a series of detentions of journalists.
Shafik Rehman, an 81-year-old respected magazine editor, was detained over what was termed a plot to kill Hasina’s son in the United States.
Rehman, who is also a British citizen, is not a member of Bangladesh’s main opposition party but was a speechwriter for its leader Khaleda Zia, who has for years been involved in a bitter feud with Hasina.
The opposition has blasted the arrest as a stifling of free speech. But Hasina’s son Wazed late Sunday called the evidence against Rehman “direct and irrefutable”.
“The US Department of Justice discovered Shafik Rehman’s direct involvement in the plot to kidnap and kill me. They provided this evidence to our Government,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
There was no comment from the US Justice Department.
The arrest comes amid widening fears for freedom of speech in the Muslim-majority nation, which has seen a spate of Islamist killings of secular bloggers and publishers.
Last week the High Court suspended 72 defamation and other criminal lawsuits filed by government supporters against newspaper editor Mahfuz Anam.
Human Rights Watch is among those which have slammed the lawsuits against Anam, saying they “are part of a larger, organised assault on independent media”.