Violence flares amid Bangladesh strike

2013-06-10 13:01
Bangladeshi labourers work in a small garments factory during a nationwide strike called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on the outskirts of Dhaka. (Munir Uz Zaman, AFP)

Bangladeshi labourers work in a small garments factory during a nationwide strike called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on the outskirts of Dhaka. (Munir Uz Zaman, AFP)

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Dhaka - Protestors clashed with police in several towns across Bangladesh on Monday as the latest strike declared by the nation's largest Islamic party paralysed much of the country.

Shops and schools were closed in the capital Dhaka and major roads were largely deserted after the Jamaat-e-Islami party called for a nationwide strike to denounce the jailing on Sunday of Islamist leaders by a war crimes tribunal.

Two police officers were injured in the northern town of Ullapara after protesters threw a homemade bomb into their vehicle, police said.

"They have been hospitalised," Ullapara police chief Habibul Islam told AFP, adding that no one was arrested over the attack.

Violence also erupted in the eastern town of Laksam where police fired rubber bullets at about 300 gathered protesters, district police chief Tutul Chakrabarty told AFP.

Throughout the country, inter-district bus and lorry services were also suspended in anticipation of the strike.

‘Show trials’

Jamaat called the strike to protest the jailing on Sunday of two Islamists, including a member of parliament, for three months for contempt of court, a decision likely to further fuel tensions between the secular government and religious parties.

Jamaat lawmaker Hamidur Rahman Azad and the party's acting deputy Rafiqul Islam Khan were sentenced in absentia by the controversial International Crimes Tribunal, which is trying Islamists and others for war crimes.

More than 150 people have been killed in protests to denounce verdicts by the tribunal over atrocities committed during the nation's bloody war for independence in 1971.

The opposition parties, including Jamaat, have called more than 30 strikes this year, protesting at what they say are "show trials" of leading Islamists and demanding elections under a caretaker government.

The tribunal has convicted four other top Islamists including a vice-president of Jamaat who was sentenced to death for war crimes.

Two officials from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition, and eight other Jamaat officials including its top leader are still on trial. A verdict against Ghulam Azam, the wartime head of Jamaat, is expected later this month.

Human Rights Watch has said the tribunal's procedures fall short of international standards.

The government says the trials are needed to heal the wounds of the 1971 war in which it says three million people were killed and 200 000 women raped. Independent estimates put the death toll at between 300 000 and 500 000.

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