DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh police said Tuesday they have charged opposition leader Khaleda Zia with “abetting” an arson attack during a period of deadly political unrest in the country.
At least 36 people have died in anti-government protests unleashed by Zia’s January 4 call for a nationwide transport blockade to try to topple the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Hundreds more have been injured and more than 750 vehicles firebombed or vandalised to keep them off the road, prompting international concern over the country’s stability.
Zia was one of 32 people accused in the firebombing of a van on Sunday in the southeastern town of Chouddogram, local police chief Uttam Chakraborty told AFP.
“She is the accused number 32 in the case. Initial charges have been filed against her for abetting the crime,” he said.
Police also described Zia as an “instigator” in another arson case in the capital Dhaka in which dozens of people were wounded, although her name has not appeared on a list of those formally accused.
Nearly 10,000 opposition activists have been detained since Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its 19 allies launched the blockade.
The crisis began when police confined Zia to her office after she threatened to lead a mass rally against her political rival Hasina.