Bangladesh jails two refugees for protesting repatriation


Rohingya Muslim refugees collect water at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh's Ukhia district on January 24, 2018. Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP

Two Rohingya men have been jailed for a week for protesting against a controversial plan to repatriate the persecuted minority back to Myanmar, Bangladesh police said Wednesday.

Rohingya have erected banners, chanted slogans and staged angry rallies in crowded camps near the border in Cox's Bazar as tension mounts over the looming relocation of hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled a crackdown by the Myanmar military.

Bangladesh insists the repatriation process will be voluntary but police have ramped up security in the camps.

Abdul Jabbar and Ali Hossain, both in their 60s, were sentenced Tuesday after being charged with creating a public nuisance.

Another man held for questioning at the protest was released Wednesday afternoon without charge on condition he will not "engage in any anti-government activities" or incite further protests, a police officer said.

Bangladesh had been due to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees this week after agreeing to a two-year timeline with Myanmar.

But it was delayed when Bangladesh said neither side was ready. Myanmar later blamed its neighbour for a lack of preparation, a charge Bangladesh has rejected.

Nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled a campaign of violence in Myanmar since August, and many of the displaced Muslims living in Bangladesh fear returning to their conflict-scarred homeland in Rakhine state.

Police are also investigating the murder of two Rohingya representatives in the past week. Local media suggested one man was targeted for his support for the repatriation.

Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion said two Rohingya had been arrested and a knife had been seized in raids on the camps where the men were murdered, a spokesman for the elite security forces said.

© AFP

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