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India court extends custody of top opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal for 4 more days

NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian court on Thursday extended custody of a top opposition leader for four more days after his arrest last week triggered protests, as the country gears up for a general election starting next month.

Arvind Kejriwal, New Delhi’s top elected official and one of the country’s most consequential politicians of the past decade, was arrested by the federal Enforcement Directorate on March 21. The agency, controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, accused Kejriwal’s party and ministers of accepting 1 billion rupees ($12 million) in bribes from liquor contractors nearly two years ago.

The Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man’s Party, has denied the accusations and said Kejriwal will remain its chief minister as it fights the case in court.

In court on Thursday, Kejriwal called his arrest “a political conspiracy.” His political party is part of a broad alliance of opposition parties called INDIA, which is the main challenger to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming election.

Hundreds of Kejriwal’s supporters have been holding protests since he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, the federal agency that probes economic offenses, on Friday.

The agency has accused Kejriwal of being the “kingpin and key conspirator” in the liquor bribery case. Kejriwal has refuted the allegations and accused the directorate of “manipulating investigative agencies for political motives.”

Kejriwal’s case has dominated the news in India ahead of the general election, which starts April 19. India’s opposition parties say the government is misusing its power to harass and weaken its political opponents, pointing to a spree of raids, arrests and corruption investigations against key opposition figures.