Police arrested Hefazat-e-Islam's Joint Secretary General Mamunul Haque from Jamia Rahmania Madrasa in Dhaka's Mohammadpur area on Sunday noon in a vandalism case filed with Mohammadpur police station in 2020.
Mamunul Haque was brought to the office of the Tejgaon deputy police commissioner after the arrest.
At a media briefing there, Deputy Commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP, Tejgaon Division) Harun-or-Rashid said the vandalism case investigation found Mamunul's involvement.
"We have got solid evidence over his involvement, and he has also admitted it during the primary interrogation."
The police official said Mamunul was under police scanner due to his recent speeches "inciting violence and attempts to destabilise peace in the country".
Mamunul is well-known among Islamic hardliners for his hate speech and violent sermons in religious congregations and on social media.
The man acquired a murky reputation earlier this month after he was found with a woman – he said was his second wife – at a resort in Narayanganj's Sonargaon. The authorities later denied his statement.
In November 2020, Mamunul demanded that the government remove the upcoming statue of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, claiming that statues were haram (forbidden) in Islam. He later explained that he did not want to offend Bangabandhu.
In March this year, the Hefazat bigwig and his party colleagues led a series of protests against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Dhaka visit, which sparked violence in parts of Bangladesh.
DMP headquarters said there are 17 cases in Dhaka against Mamunul. Of the cases, 15 were filed by police after the siege of Hefazat in Dhaka's MotijheelShaplaChattar in 2013.
He has also been accused in cases over the recent violence in several places, including Brahmanbaria, over anti-Modi protests.
In the last few days, police arrested several Hefazat men including some central leaders such as Hefazat's Organizing Secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi, central leaders Mufti Sharif Ullah, Maulana Junaid Al Habib and Maulana Jubayer.
The leaders who got arrested from Dhaka have been shown arrested in the 2013 case. Police are also interrogating several people after getting them in remand.
At the press briefing, DMP official Harun-or-Rashid was asked about Mamunul's involvement in MotijheelShaplaChattar cases. "His connection with all those incidents is being investigated. There are many cases against him with other police stations," he added.
Mamunul was being interrogated at Tejgaon police station. The DMP deputy commissioner said the Hefazat leader would be produced before court Monday and police would seek a seven-day remand in Mohammadpur vandalism case.
Cop wanted to arrest him outside of the madrasa
Since the Sonargaon resort incident, Mamunul Haque was staying in a room of Mohammadpur Jamia Rahmania Madrasa.
Police sources said though he came out of the madrasa to join a party meeting, he returned to his room after sensing police surveillance. Eventually, he deployed students at the madrasa gates to watch around.
Police officials said they wanted to arrest Mamunul outside of madrasa to avert any untoward incident. But since the Islamic preacher was not leaving the room, they had to change the plan.
With a green signal from the high-ups, cops finalised the madrasa raid as DMP detective branch and Tejgaon division police conducted the Sunday drive.
He was not handcuffed
Mamunul Haque was not seen handcuffed after the arrest though police in several incidents faced criticisms as they handcuffed journalists, writers and students held over petty crimes.
Asked why he was not handcuffed the entire time, Harun-or-Rashid told the media that there was no specific reason. Their main goal was to arrest Mamunul and they did so.
Crackdown on Hefazat to continue
Around 150 leaders and activists of Hefazat have been arrested across the country in the last couple of weeks, and police say the crackdown will continue.
Several DMP officials told The Business Standard they have resumed the investigation of the casas filed over 2013 Motijheel mayhem. Police are likely to submit the charge-sheets in the cases within a short time.
MahbubulAlam Hanif, joint general secretary of ruling Awami League, also said the drive against Hefazat will continue unless the culprits who wreaked havoc across the country are brought to book.
In the meantime, police Sunday beefed up security across the country to avoid untoward any incident centring the arrest of the Hefazat leader.
The Business Standard Brahmanbaria correspondent said additional law enforcers were deployed in the district followed by the arrest.
KhelafatMajlish threatens tougher movements
Bangladesh Khilafat Majlis has warned of tougher movement if Mamunul, also the acting secretary-general of Khilafat Majlis, was not released immediately.
Though Hefazat did not issue any official statement on Mamunul's arrest until Sunday evening, there were media reports which suggest Hefazat was taking preparation for legal battles.
The Islamic advocacy group is working on to form a legal panel to deal with the police cases.