Abbas Ali, the mayor of the Katakhali Municipality Corporation in Rajshahi arrested over a viral audio recording of his comments on a mural depicting Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had tried to flee abroad, according to the Rapid Action Battalion.
RAB arrested Abbas from the Hotel Razmoni Ishakha in Dhaka’s Kakrail on Wednesday in a case filed under the Digital Security Act, reports bdnews24.com.
Law enforcers were searching for Abbas, Commander Khandaker Al Moin, director of RAB’s media wing said in a press briefing.
“He went into hiding on Nov 23 and stayed at different hotels in Dhaka. RAB detectives learned of his whereabouts when he shifted to the Hotel Razmoni Ishakha.”
Abbas was carrying his passport and had plans to leave the country, Commander Al Moin said.
A mayor for consecutive two terms, who contested the election with boat symbol, Abbas Ali has been the convener of the Katakhali wing of the ruling Awami League.
The Awami League has removed him from the post of convener as well as from its Rajshahi District Committee after the audio recording was revealed.
The proposed plan to build a mural of Bangabandhu at the Rajshahi City Gate is ‘inappropriate according to Islamic Shariah law’ and he would be ‘committing a sin’ if he allowed the construction, Abbas Ali is heard saying in the recording, which went viral on social media in the second week of November.
Abbas’s audio clip emerged around the same time as a similar incident in Gazipur, where Gazipur City Corporation Mayor Zahangir Alam was suspended over his controversial remarks on Bangabandhu and Liberation War martyrs.
Abbas’s remarks sparked major controversy in Rajshahi.
A section of the local Awami League demanded his removal, while Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque said Abbas had committed a ‘punishable offence’ by making such comments.
At least three Digital Security Act cases were filed against him with Rajpara, Boalia, and Chandrima police in Rajshahi.
Mayor Abbas initially claimed the audio had been ‘edited,’ but later confessed on a Facebook Live stream that the audio was recorded about three or four months ago and contained his statements.
He said he was influenced by the opinions of a religious teacher at a local madrasa and said there should not be any mural of Bangabandhu ‘just casually’.
Abbas cried, begging for forgiveness if his ‘crime was a major one’. He asked people for their support and said he was ‘facing a conspiracy.’
“Mayor Abbas confirmed that he had made the statement that went viral online,” said RAB official Al Moin.
“But the mayor did not say whether someone had influenced him to make such a statement,” he said.