Bangladesh opposition head under 'virtual house arrest'

Bangladesh opposition head under 'virtual house arrest'

DHAKA - Bangladesh's main opposition party said Thursday its leader Khaleda Zia was being kept under virtual house arrest after she called for a mass march aimed at scuppering a January 5 election.

"Since yesterday she has been under virtual house arrest," Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) vice-president Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury told AFP.

"The police are not allowing anyone, including party leaders and activists, to meet her. It is part of a government move to foil the December 29 march for democracy," he said.

Zia has called on her followers to mass in the capital Dhaka this Sunday to derail what she has called a "farcical" election.

The BNP and 20 other opposition parties are boycotting the polls while the main Islamist party has been banned from standing.

Zia, a former premier, was allowed to host a Christmas Day reception for members of the minority Christian community on Wednesday, but Chowdhury said party officials were prevented from meeting her.

One current member of parliament and a former lawmaker were detained by police as they tried to meet her on Wednesday, said Chowdhury.

Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Lutful Kabir rejected the claim that Zia was detained, saying that offices had "enhanced her security" outside her home in Dhaka's upmarket Gulshan neighbourhood.

He confirmed the arrests of the current and former BNP lawmakers.

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