DHAKA - Bangladeshi police Tuesday arrested three of the top leaders of Bangladesh's largest Islamic party on the rarely-used charge of "offending religious sentiment" in the Muslim-majority nation.
Motiur Rahman Nizami, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami party, his deputy Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and top preacher Delwar Hossain Saydee were arrested in the capital Dhaka, city police chief A.K.M. Shahidul Haque said.
"They were detained after the court issued arrest warrants against them for hurting the religious sentiment of the people," Haque told AFP.
The Jamaat leaders have been charged after they claimed Nizami's alleged persecution at the hands of the ruling Awami League was akin to the suffering of the Prophet Mohammed, he said.
The three leaders had been summoned to appear at a Dhaka court on Tuesday but ignored the order, which lead to an arrest warrant being issued, he said.
Jamaat-e-Islami has been the country's largest Islamic party since it was allowed to operate and contest in elections in late 1970s. It was a part of the Islamist-allied government led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in 2001-6.
Since winning a landslide in December 2008, the government has cracked down on Islamist groups, with the head of banned Islamic outfit Hizb-ut Tahrir being arrested April on charges of instigating militancy and running a banned group.
Police say Hizb-ut Tahrir is still actively trying to destabilise the government and plot attacks.
Jamaat's top leaders have also been accused of war crimes by private groups investigating Bangladesh's liberation war of 1971, including the killing of dozens of intellectuals during the nine-month war against Pakistan.
Jamaat leaders deny the allegations.