Bangladesh strike over war crimes trials sparks clashes

Jamaat-e-Islami supporters are demanding a halt to war crimes trials for their leaders

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At least two people were killed as violence erupted across Bangladesh during a strike called by the largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and vehicles were torched.

Some of the worst of the violence was in the city of Bogra where police say confrontations between rival political parties left two men dead.

The strike was called in protest at a war crimes trial in which several Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are charged.

Correspondents say much of the country has been brought to a standstill.

Many schools and businesses are shut and roads deserted.

"We can confirm the death of two people. One of them belonged to Jamaat's student wing and another was a Jamaat supporter," Anwar Hossain, a police officer in Bogra told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Dhaka says there are concerns about the country's political stability as the Jamaat-e-Islami has threatened to intensify its protests if the war crimes trial is not stopped.

Main defendants

  • Ghulam Azam, 90, former J-e-I leader
  • Motiur Rahman Nizami, current J-e-I leader
  • Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Senior J-e-I member
  • Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid J-e-I secretary-general
  • Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury senior member of BNP

The party's supporters are outraged that some of their leaders have been put on trial for crimes allegedly committed during the 1971 independence war. They say the trials are politically motivated.

Senior Jamaat leader Shafiqul Islam called on the government "to stop harassing our party leaders".

"We also want all our leaders in prison to be released. The illegal war crimes tribunal should be scrapped," he told the BBC.

Local media reported several home-made bombs exploding in Dhaka on Thursday.

At Sanarpar, outside Dhaka, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at strikers who set light to a lorry, police chief Abdul Matin told AFP news agency.

Four protesters were arrested, he added.

The strike follows violent protests in Dhaka on Monday.

Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, says more than three million people died when West Pakistan sent troops to stop it becoming independent in 1971.

Last week, a special tribunal sentenced a former member of Jamaat-e-Islami to death in absentia.

Eleven others, nine of them Jamaat leaders, are facing trial.

Our correspondent says verdicts in the other cases are expected imminently.

All the defendants deny the charges and opposition leaders accuse the government of carrying out a political vendetta. Human rights groups say the International Crimes Tribunal falls short of international standards.

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