Bangladesh police on Monday arrested a prominent critic of the government who recently helped the country's embattled opposition parties forge an alliance amid fears that dissent is being stifled in the South Asian nation.
Police said Moinul Hosein, a top lawyer and a publisher of an English daily, was detained from Dhaka's Uttara neighbourhood hours after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina slammed him for his comments against a pro-government female journalist.
"He has been arrested after a warrant of arrest was issued against him", a senior Dhaka Metropolitan Police officer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Hosein, 78, who does not belong to any political party, emerged as a top critic of the government in recent months and was a key organiser of the recently formed alliance between the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other centrist parties.
Premier Hasina on Monday attacked Hosein for his comments against the woman journalist whom he described as "characterless", accusing him of collaborating with Pakistan during Bangladesh's war of independence against the Islamic republic, the state-run BSS news agency reported.
She asked female journalists to protest Hosein's remark and urge them to file cases against him.
"Lodge cases against him, the law enforcement agencies and the government will do whatever necessary in this regard," she said, according to BSS.
Hosein has apologised for the remarks.
News of the arrest comes as Bangladesh opposition parties accuse the government of a massive crackdown against their members.
The BNP says police have arrested at least 4,000 of its activists including a prominent former minister on trumped-up charges since September.
Earlier this month the acting head of BNP Tarique Rahman, who now lives in exile in London, was sentenced to life in prison over charges he plotted a grenade attack on Hasina in 2004 when she was the leader of the opposition.
With a general election due in the next three months, Hasina expects a tough fight from the regrouped opposition, unlike in 2014 when the BNP and other parties boycotted the poll over fears of vote-rigging.
Bangladesh's parliament recently ratified a new and stringent digital security law, despite widespread criticism by journalists and rights groups.
The law was enacted weeks after top Bangladeshi journalist and activist Shahidul Alam was arrested during massive student protests in the capital Dhaka for making "false" and "provocative" statements on Al Jazeera and Facebook Live.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)