DHAKA: The Bangladesh Police has arrested prominent pro-opposition newspaper editor and lawyer Moinul Hosein on a defamation charge, days after he was exposed to massive criticism for calling a woman journalist "characterless" on a TV talk show.
Hosein, the owner and editor of the Daily New Nation, is a well-known critic of the government and though he does not belong to any party, the 78-year-old is known for his right-wing political views.
The barrister, who had served as an adviser with ministerial status in the past caretaker government, was arrested Monday night by police's Detective Branch.
"We have arrested Barrister Moinul Hosein in compliance with an arrest warrant issued by a court in (northwestern) Rangpur," Joint Commissioner at the Detective Branch Mahbub Alal told reporters.
Hosein would be kept in police custody overnight at the Detective Branch office to be produced before a court Tuesday for subsequent legal procedures, he said.
On a talk show on October 16 midnight journalist Masuda Bhatti had asked Hosein if he represented fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami in the newly-floated Unity Front, as being speculated on the social media.
In his reply, Hosein had said, "I thank you for your audacity (in asking the question) and want to call you a characterless (person).
" Hosein had a played a key role in the formation of the recently-floated Unity Front, an alliance between the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other centrist parties.
He was arrested around 10 PM from the residence of left-leaning opposition politician ASM Abdur Rab of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), which is also a part of the alliance.
"He came out of the house as the plainclothesmen laid a siege around the house and sent him the message that they awaited outside with the warrant," a witness to the arrest process told PTI.
The Unity Front comprises main opposition outside parliament BNP and several other political groups led by prominent lawyer Kamal Hossain.
Hosein is also a former chairman of the Board of Editors of the Daily Ittefaq, one of the Bangladesh's oldest newspapers.
Earlier, Masuda Bhatti had said Hosein had called her to apologise. But, his move could help him little to evade a spate of massive disparagement and a series of defamation cases filed by women rights groups and the one lodged by the woman journalist.
A police officer, privy to the arrested, said at least six defamation cases were filed against Hosein for his comments while he managed to secure bail in three of them.
"We arrested him in one of the cases where he was not protected under the High Court order," the officer said.
Hosien's younger brother Anwar Hossain is a senior minister in the cabinet as his faction of Jatiya Party (JP) is a partner of the Awami League-led ruling coalition.
Hours ahead of the arrest Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a news conference that Hosein deserved punitive actions for his defamatory comments against a "lady colleague of yours".
She also described him "an agent of the 1971 Pakistani forces" and "no less responsible" for the killing of martyred journalist Serajuddin Hossain during the 1971 Liberation War.