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Bangladesh publisher arrested on defamation charges

Last Updated Oct 23, 2018 at 6:40 am EST

DHAKA, Bangladesh – A prominent lawyer and newspaper publisher who is tied to Bangladesh’s political opposition was denied bail Tuesday after his arrest on defamation charges, heightening concerns about a crackdown on dissent ahead of national elections.

Police arrested Mainul Hosein late Monday in a raid on an opposition leader’s home in the capital, said Mahbub Alam, a joint commissioner of the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. Hosein is the publisher of the English-language New Nation daily and heads its editorial board.

Magistrate Kaisarul Islam gave no explanation for denying Hosein bail at a brief hearing Tuesday.

A court in northern Bangladesh issued a warrant for Hosein’s arrest Monday, with Alam saying the case was linked to an Oct. 16 television talk show appearance where Hosein called a journalist “characterless” after she asked him if he represented the opposition.

That journalist, Masuda Bhatti, previously filed a defamation case against Hosein in another court and Hosein was free on bail. The fresh charges were filed by human rights activist Mili Maya, who said Hosein had defamed all women with his comment to Bhatti.

Hosein faces at least six other defamation charges in different parts of the country for the same reasons.

His arrest came after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina criticized his comment and urged female journalists to file charges against him.

Hosein has been a fierce critic of Hosina and he was among the civil society figures and politicians who chose the leader of a fresh opposition alliance formed this month with the aim of defeating Hosina in elections expected in December.

Hosein was a former adviser to an army-backed caretaker government from 2006 to 2008.

The opposition termed the arrest “unprecedented.”

“He has been arrested to undermine the opposition’s movement to revive democracy,” said Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, an opposition spokesman.

Bhatti, the journalist, said Tuesday that it was “a complicated situation” for her and she was worried about her safety.

“I received several threats from people after I reacted to his abuse. I have gone to court for justice,” she told The Associated Press by phone. “I don’t feel safe. Now everything is depending on courts. He not only attacked me, he attacked all women.”

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This story has been corrected to show that Hosein’s first name is Mainul, not Moinul.