File photo of Khaleda Zia.( Image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )
Several hundred BNP leaders and followers formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club on Monday morning demanding the release of jailed leader Khaleda Zia and free and fair elections.
They chanted different slogans demanding the immediate release of Khaleda Zia, reports said.
Zia, 72, was imprisoned for five years by the Special Court-5 in the capital, Dhaka on February 8, in connection with embezzlement of 21 million takas (US $252,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has said that no national election will be held in Bangladesh without party Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
"We want her immediate release and a free and fair election," Alamgir told AFP outside the national press club in Dhaka where more than 5,000 gathered.
The BNP leader said: “We will free her [Khaleda] with our peaceful protest.”
BNP’s district, thana, upzila and city units will also be carrying out protests at their convenient time and places, media reports said on Monday.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman was quoted saying: “We will not stop any peaceful protest but it should not lead to the sufferings of mass people.”
Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is expected to appeal against the verdict, but it may affect her ability to stand in a general election slated for December.
Police said they arrested at least seven BNP officials on February 8 in the port city of Chittagong, including the local head of the party, after opposition supporters scuffled with police.
Alamgir said at least 4,300 opposition officials had been arrested in the past fortnight as police sought to offset resistance ahead of Zia's sentencing. A party vice chairman and two former ministers were among those detained, he added.
Zia is a former ally-turned-archrival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The BNP boycotted the general election in 2014 that saw Hasina return to power, but Zia is expected to contest the upcoming poll in December.
Her son Tarique Rahman, who lives in exile in London, has been named as the acting opposition chief, despite being convicted and jailed.
(With AFP inputs)