Top brass of Jamaat-e-Islami -- Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, and Delwar Hossain Sayedee -- were arrested from the capital and Savar, hours after a Dhaka court ordered the move yesterday.
The court issued the order to arrest four Jamaat leaders including the detainees, as they had failed to comply with earlier summonses for court appearances in a case filed on charges of hurting religious sentiment of the Muslims.
The other Jamaat leader with an arrest warrant against him is the party's Dhaka City unit chief Rafiqul Islam Khan, who was still free at the time of filing this report last night, as police could not find him when they raided Jamaat's Dhaka City unit office in the afternoon, to arrest him.
The court had granted bail to another accused in the case, Dhaka City President of Islami Chhatra Shibir ASM Yahia, as he had appeared before the court yesterday. Islami Chhatra Shibir is a student organisation backed by Jamaat, an Islamist political party.
Jamaat right away announced rallies across the country for today, protesting the arrests and demanding immediate release of the detainees.
Meanwhile, ruling Awami League's Joint General Secretary Mahabubul Haque Hanif said the Jamaat leaders were arrested on specific allegations, and there was no political motive behind the move.
A team of Detective Branch (DB) police picked up Jamaat Ameer Nizami from in front of the National Press Club in the capital around 5:00pm, when he went there to participate in a discussion organised by the National Doctors' Forum.
About an hour earlier, a team of Ashulia police arrested Jamaat secretary general also former social welfare minister, Mojahid, from Savar. A top DB official said Mojahid was arrested as he was fleeing the town, but a Jamaat media release claimed that he was going to Faridpur. He was taken to Ashulia police station in the immediate aftermath of the arrest.
Another DB team picked up Jamaat Nayebe Ameer Delwar Hossain Sayedee from his Shaheed Bagh residence in the capital around 5:30pm.
All three were finally taken to DB's Minto Road office in the capital between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. DB sources said the arrestees would be kept in that office until they were produced before a court.
"The detective branch and Ashulia police arrested the three Jamaat leaders, executing the arrest warrants issued by a Dhaka court," DB Deputy Commissioner Monirul Islam told The Daily Star in the evening.
On March 21, Syed Rejaul Haque Chandpuri, secretary general of Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, filed a case with a metropolitan magistrate's court in Dhaka against the four Jamaat, and one Shibir leaders, accusing them of hurting religious sentiment of the Muslims.
The case stated that Dhaka City Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Rafiqul Islam Khan, at a discussion in the city on March 17, put Nizami at a par with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which hurt the Muslims' religious sentiment.
Nizami had also been arrested on May 18, 2008 in connection with the Gatco graft case following an arrest warrant. Mojahid is also accused in the case.
Both of them are also accused in the Barapukuria coal mine graft case, but they were granted bail in the case, all proceedings of which have been stayed by an HC order.
The two are also accused in two murder cases, filed with Keraniganj and Pallabi police stations, in connection with killing of freedom fighters and general public during the country's liberation war in 1971. The cases were filed in 2007 and 2008.
Our staff correspondent reported from Chittagong that police were put on high alert there to avert any possible untoward incident in the port city following the arrests yesterday.
Police dispersed a march of Jamaat-Shibir activists at Bakolia in the evening, and arrested three marchers.
Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) yesterday evening issued a red alert to maintain law and order in the north-western city after the arrests, reported our Rajshahi staff correspondent.
RMP Commissioner M Nawsher Ali said the alert was issued to avert any untoward incident.
In Rangpur town, police dispersed a Jamaat-shibir march, and arrested one Jamaat and one Shibir activists.