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Bangladesh opposition says it faces mass arrests ahead of polls | Bangladesh News

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Dhaka, Bangladesh – With less than a week remaining before Bangladesh’s much anticipated parliamentary elections, the main opposition Jatiya Oikya Front (National Unity Front) has accused the government of carrying out mass arrests of its leaders and supporters.

Seven thousand activists and leaders have been arrested since the election schedule was announced in November, the opposition alliance said in a press release on Monday.

The alliance has alleged that they have also faced violent attacks from police and the ruling Awami League (AL) party supporters.

The opposition alliance claims election campaign activities of its candidates have come under repeated attacks, making it impossible for them to gather freely in public spaces.

“There hasn’t ever been a situation like this before in an election in Bangladesh’s history,” said Jahangir Alam Mintu, a spokesperson of the Jatiya Oikya Front.

US-based right group Human Rights Watch, in a report published on December 22, urged Bangladesh authorities to protect candidates and ensure a credible election.

Terming the current political climate in Bangladesh “repressive”, the New York-based rights body said it is “undermining the credibility” of the upcoming election.

The report also found that “authoritarian measures, including widespread surveillance and a crackdown on free speech, have contributed to a widely described climate of fear”.

 Zia barred from contesting the polls

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said on Sunday its website was shut down along with 54 other portals over purported security reasons amid accusation that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been clamping down on dissent.

Its main leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been barred from contesting the polls as she is serving jail term for corruption. She has termed the charges political motivated.

The BNP leader Shamsuzzaman Dudu said that the opposition is not being allowed to carry out any public activities without risk of being attacked or arrested.

“We want to contest the election but the minimum freedom necessary for an election does not exist. We cannot do campaign works. We are being charged in false police cases,” he said.

Dudu’s BNP is the biggest political party in the four-party opposition alliance that is challenging Hasina, who is seeking to return to power for a third consecutive time.

The opposition leader accused the police of biased towards the ruling party.

“If from tomorrow there is no police force on the ground, I think that will ensure the most free and fair election,” he said, adding that police’s only role is to remove the opposition from the election.

Attacks on the opposition alliance candidate Afroza Abbas, who is running from the Dhaka 9 constituency, came under spotlight as videos surfaced on social media showing men with brickbats and sticks attacking her election rally.

Since her election campaign began on December 12, she claims there have been four attacks on her rallies.

“I have shown the pictures and videos to the election commissioners. They said they have properly instructed the police to stop these attacks. But they keep attacking. My driver was severely injured in the last attack and he needed 22 stiches,” Abbas told Al Jazeera.

She admitted that since last week, the police actually tried to protect her but it did not make any arrests for the previous attacks.

“I recognise the attackers. They are Jubo League (a youth wing of the ruling Awami League) people. But the police don’t arrest them,” she said.

Police deny allegations

Police denied the opposition allegations and said that there is “clear instructions from the police headquarters to carry out their duties according to the rule of law and maintain due process”.

“If there is an aggrieved party which feels that they are being charged in a case by the police without due procedure, then they can file complaints and ask for appropriate redress,” Sohel Rana, the Additional Inspector General (Media) of Bangladesh Police, told Al Jazeera.

He promised that each and every allegation will be investigated.

“We cannot respond to vague allegations. If there is a mistake we will take appropriate actions,” he said.

At least six people have died in election-related violence so far. On Monday, the military began to deploy across the South Asian nation of over 160 million people.

Kamal Hossain, who has emerged as the face of the opposition alliance, welcomed the deployment of thousands of military personnel.

Al Jazeera reached out to the Election Commission office as well as the ruling party officials but did not receive a response at time of the publication.

The Bangladesh government has also come under scrutiny for dragging its feet on furnishing visas to international election observers.

The US State Department on Friday expressed “disappointment” over Bangladesh government’s “inability” to grant credentials and issue visas for monitors from Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry said it was “disheartened” at the US statement.

“Accreditation of international election observers from a number of organizations including ANFREL is currently under process. In addition, the Election Commission has registered 118 local organizations and also approved 25,920 local observers to monitor the polls,” it said in a statement.

Ali Riaz, a political science professor with Illinois State University, said that the incident is disconcerting.

“I will not be surprised if it is read by the US policymakers, including the Congress, as an unwillingness of the Bangladeshi government to ensure a credible and acceptable election,” Riaz told Al Jazeera.

He said that the explanation of the Election Commission regarding the accreditation process is not convincing.

“This points to an unwillingness of the EC and Bangladeshi government to cooperate with foreign observers, even when the number is very small compared to any previous participatory elections.

“Add this to the absence of a level-playing field, large scale arrests of opposition candidates and activists, the impunity enjoyed by the ruling party activists in perpetrating violence, the credibility and integrity of the election is increasingly becoming questionable,” said Riaz.

Additional reporting by Saugato Boso from Dhaka

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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