Bangladesh's army-backed interim government said on Sunday it had detained almost 25,000 people over the past two weeks in a hunt for criminals and suspected troublemakers ahead of a parliamentary election in December.
Major political parties, including the Awami League of former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, say most of those held are members of their parties.
"The drive was not politically motivated or intended to detain political activists," retired Major-General M.A. Matin, home affairs adviser (minister) to the government, said.
"We don't have any political motive behind these arrests," Matin told a news conference.
On June 5, New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the interim government to charge or release thousands of people.
Police said they had arrested 24,862 people until Thursday from May 28, and said the hunt would continue to make the election run up trouble-free.
Hasina and Khaleda asked the authorities to stop mass arrests and create a congenial atmosphere for holding a national election to return to power an elected government.
Both former prime ministers have been detained on corruption charges, although Hasina on Wednesday was given leave to travel abroad for medical treatment.
The two were detained, along with about 170 other key political figures, after the interim authority took charge in January 2007, following deadly political violence, vowing to crack down on corruption.
Matin said: "The recent drive was launched following attacks on police, vandalism in garment factories and increased criminal activities across the country."
Police said at least 10 people were killed in Dhaka by criminals over the past month.
"We have information that the criminals may try to disrupt the planned election by creating a violent law and order situation in the country," Matin said.
The 15 years that Hasina and Khaleda alternated in power were marked by political unrest and Bangladesh was ranked high among countries for corruption.
One of their parties is expected to form the next government.
Last Mod: 16 Haziran 2008, 08:18