Tuesday, June 23, 2009

21 Arakanese Protesters Released from Bangladesh Custody

Dhaka (Narinjara): 21 Arakanese protesters were released from Bangladesh police custody yesterday after ten hours in the police lockup, said Ko Aung Naing, one of the detained protesters.

"Police released us at 8:30 pm and we arrived at home safely around midnight yesterday," he said.

The group was arrested by Bangladesh police in front of the Indian embassy in Dhaka while they were staging a protest against the Indian government for the illegal detention of 34 Arakanese and Karen freedom fighters.

"We were staging a demonstration in front of the Indian embassy in Dhaka at 11 am, shouting slogans against the Indian government. At that time, the Bangladesh police came to the spot and arrested us. Afterward the police detained us at Gulsan police station," Aung Naing said.

The protesters arrested were primarily UNHCR recognized refugees, including children and monks, so it is believe the police released them without charges to avoid any potential international criticism.

According to a police source, they were arrested after the Indian embassy lodged a complaint with police and requested their arrest. (JEG's: can they do that? police follows "requests" for arrest? Is it legal to protest in B'desh? obviously diplomatic cooperation was enforced here)

June 22 was a global day of action for the 34 Arakanese and Karen freedom fighters, and many Burmese in exile staged protests to demand their release in at least 20 countries, including Thailand, India, Bangladesh, and Britain.

In February 1998, members of the Arakan Army and Karen liberation army led by Major Khaing Raza went to an Indian island in the Andaman Archipelago to set up a new naval base in accordance with an agreement with the Indian army to watch Chinese military activities in the Andaman Sea.

When they arrived at the island, Indian soldiers killed Bo Raza and five other senior leaders in the group in cold blood. The 34 freedom fighters were arrested and have been in custody since then. They are currently being detained in a prison in Kolkata.

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