South Asia

Bangladesh: Police arrest hundreds over rally violence

A member of the Jamaat-e-Islami being arrested on Monday 19 September
Image caption The Jamaat-e-Islami says that the arrests are evidence of repression

Bangladeshi police have arrested hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami supporters on charges of inciting violence during a demonstration on Monday.

"We are arresting only those involved in violence," senior police officer Habibur Rahman told the BBC.

The protest was part of a country-wide agitation by Jamaat-e-Islami against the continued detention of five senior leaders on war crimes charges in 1971.

They were allegedly committed during the liberation war from Pakistan.

All five leaders of the Islamist party deny the charges.

Those arrested on Monday included Abul Asad, editor of the the Daily Sangram newspaper run by Jamaat-e-Islami and other senior leaders of the party.

Jamaat-e-Islami leaders deny their supporters were involved in violence on Monday in which nearly 50 people, most of them police officers, were injured and many vehicles were set on fire in the capital Dhaka.

"Around 480 of our supporters have been detained countrywide. The arrests are still going on. Many innocent people are getting detained. It's clear repression against us," Dr Shafiqur Rahman, a senior leader of the party told the BBC.

It was the first major clash between protesters and security forces since the Awami League-led coalition came to power in January 2009.

Police have registered cases against hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami activists on charges of vandalism, arson and preventing law enforcement officers from performing their duties.

On Tuesday, a Dhaka court remanded the acting Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam in custody for 10 days.

He was arrested on Monday evening on charges of instigating violence. The party denies the charges.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has announced a country-wide general strike on Thursday to protest against price rises and what they describe as the repression of opposition parties.

Jamaat-e-Islami and other smaller parties have expressed their support for the strike.

East Pakistan became Bangladesh 40 years ago, after a bloody battle for independence.

Official figures estimate that more than three million people were killed and thousands of women raped when West Pakistan sent in its army to stop the independence movement.

Last year, the Bangladeshi government set up an International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka - to try those Bangladeshis accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces and committing atrocities.

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