Fresh clashes erupt in Bangladesh over death sentence for Jamaat leader


DHAKA: A new round of deadly clashes erupted Friday in Bangladesh, a day after the sentencing to death of a senior leader unleashed the bloodiest bout of violence since independence four decades ago.

One man was killed after hundreds of pro-government supporters and followers of the rival Jamaat-i-Islami party clashed with sticks at a market in the northern district of Gaibandha, local police chief Nahidul Islam told AFP.

On Thursday clashes broke out across the country after Jamaat’s vice president was found guilty of murder, religious persecution and rape by a war crimes tribunal hearing cases dating back to the 1971 independence conflict.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee was the third person to be convicted by the tribunal whose previous verdicts have also been met with outrage from Islamists who say the process is more about score settling than delivering justice.

At least 34 people were killed in violence Thursday, according to AFP, which compiled the death toll after talking to police in the 15 districts where protests turned deadly.

It was the deadliest political day of violence in the impoverished country’s history since winning its independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The latest death on Friday brought the overall toll to 51 since the tribunal delivered its first verdict on January 21.

Security has been tightened across the Muslim-majority country ahead of Friday prayers, with border guards deployed in major cities.

Police have banned a number of planned demonstrations at several troublespots while authorities in the country’s biggest mosque, Baitul Mokarram, have locked some of the gates in a bid to limit numbers.

Twenty-three of those killed on Thursday were shot after police opened fire on thousands of rampaging Jamaat supporters who attacked law-enforcers with sticks and stones.

Four policemen were killed, two beaten to death by protesters.

Jamaat, which rejected the verdict as politically motivated, has said 50 of its “innocent” supporters were shot dead by police Thursday who “hunted them like birds”.

About 300 people, including scores of policemen, were also injured, doctors, police and local media said.

Police also reported attacks on several Hindu homes and temples by Islamists in the southern Noakhali and Chittagong districts. One old Hindu man was killed in the attack in Chittagong, police said.