AL goes on hunger strike for Hasina's freedom
Tuesday, 06 May 2008

AL presidium member Tofael Ahmed speaks Monday at a mass hunger strike in the party's Dhanmondi office. The party demands the release of former prime minister Sheikh Hasina. The Awami League Monday went on a symbolic hunger strike to pile pressure on the government to release party chief Sheikh Hasina from prison.

Acting AL president Zillur Rahman said people might "go out of control" if Hasina was not freed. "It is people who will decide the next course of action after our regular programmes end," Zillur said to leaders and workers who were on the hunger strike in Dhanmondi in Dhaka.

The AL observed the six-hour strike in the AL president's office in Dhanmondi and central office on Bangabandhu Avenue, demanding freedom for the former prime minister.

The strike began at 10.00am. "No Hasina, no election," Zillur said. Zillur offered protesters fruit juice to break the strike in Dhanmondi and presidium member Amir Hossain Amu on Bangabandhu Avenue.

Zillur said: "We have to make Sheikh Hasina's dream of taking part in the election come true." Amu said: "We want freedom for our leader before dialogue. We will free her by ousting this government if Hasina is not freed."

Leaders of the AL's front organisations asked the central leaders to announce programmes for Hasina's freedom. Amu said the situation of the country was worse than under military rule. Acting general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam said the AL party would stick to its demand until it was met.

"But we don't want to break law," the AL leader said Monday while speaking at the hunger strike in Dhanmondi. "We want the government release Sheikh Hasina and send her abroad for treatment," Ashraful said.

The acting general secretary alleged that the activities of the Election Commission and the caretaker government raised confusion about the elections.

AL presidium member Suranjit Sengupta said: "People want a free, fair and neutral election. The Awami League will win the election if the polls are held properly." AL leader Tofail Ahmed said: "We have set stage for our demand for freedom of our leader by going on a hunger strike."

"We are not rivals of the government. The leader should be released for the sake of a neutral election," he added Tofail said called on leaders and activists to be united. "We need a strong unity this time. We should not make any remark so that harmony is destroyed in the party."

Motia Chowdhury, said: "We will take part in the elections along with Sheikh Hasina. We will get Hasina freed." On the observation of the programme amid the state of emergency, Motia said: "We have decided not to do anything that breaches the emergency rules."

Organising secretary Saber Hossain Chowdhury said: "We are observing the programme demanding not only the release of our leader, but for the rule of law."

Bangladesh Chhatra League, the party's student wing, is observing a hunger strike on Dhaka University campus. Hundreds of leaders and activists are observing the programme.

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