A United States court has rejected a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claim that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is a Tier III terrorist organisation.
“In arguing that the BNP is a terrorist organisation, DHS presents two alternative theories: one, that the BNP is a terrorist organisation due to its current and past ties to terrorist organisations, and two, that the BNP is a terrorist organization on its own merits due to its members having been involved in violence,” said the US court verdict.
“The Court carefully and thoroughly considered these arguments, the evidence in the record and relevant case law, and rejects both,” the verdict continued.
A copy of Immigration Judge Dorothy Harbeck’s July 7 judgement has been obtained by the Dhaka Tribune.
According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), organisations that are defined by law as “a group of two or more individuals, whether organised or not, which engages in, or has a subgroup which engages in” terrorist activity fall within Tier III.
“Tier III organizations are also called ‘undesignated terrorist organisations’ because they qualify as terrorist organisations based on their activities alone without undergoing a formal designation process like Tier I and Tier II organisations,” according to the USCIS website.
The case arose when a 25-year-old Bangladeshi sought asylum in the United States in December last year claiming that he was a BNP activist in Bangladesh.
“DHS submitted a legal memorandum and evidence, claiming that respondent is mandatorily barred from asylum, as having ‘engaged in terrorist activity’ based on his membership in the BNP, which DHS alleges is a terrorist organisation,” the judge said.
In support of its argument that the BNP is a terrorist organisation, DHS submitted 16 exhibits as evidence.
In the verdict, the court noted that the DHS claim appeared to be a novel one and that no Board of Immigration Appeals or circuit court decision to date has considered the question.
“The finding that the BNP is not a terrorist organisation is also supported by a review of comparable case law, as the BNP is notably distinct from a number of other groups found by other courts to be terrorist organisations,” the verdict said.
It continued that the record did not include any statement from a US government body suggesting that the BNP is a terrorist organisation.
“While the Court is concerned by the escalating violence attributed to BNP members, it is not convinced that the evidence proves that this political party has evolved into a terrorist organisation,” the verdict said.
When contacted, a US embassy spokesperson said: “The BNP has not been designated as a foreign terrorist organisation; the list of designated foreign terrorist organisations is publicly available on the US Department of State website. Tier III is an internal DHS mechanism and there is no list for Tier III organisations.”
The BNP was founded by former army strongman Ziaur Rahman in 1978.
The party was ousted from power in a bloodless coup in 1982. It was voted to power in 1991 but lost parliamentary elections in 1996. The BNP was again voted into office in 2001.
At present, the party has no participation in parliament because it boycotted parliamentary elections held in 2014.
Based on its previous performance at the polls, the party enjoys the support of about a third of the electorate.