03/01/2013, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Bangladesh: dozens killed in clashes between Islamists and police

The violence erupted after the sentencing to death of a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Party), accused of war crimes in 1971. More than 800 injured. Among the victims, three policemen. Explosions in several neighborhoods of the capital, temples and houses burnt the Hindu community in the southeast. The Islamic religious authority in the country calls for calm.

Dhaka (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 35 people have died in Bangladesh in clashes between police and supporters of the Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami. Over 800 are injured. The violence erupted in the late afternoon yesterday after Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, a party leader accused of war crimes during the conflict of 1971, was sentenced to death. The verdict sparked yet another hartal (strike) by the National Jamaat and its supporters, who in a short time set several towns and villages on fire, destroyed some Hindu temples, left thousands of people wounded. Among the victims there are three police officers, beaten to death when 2 thousand Jamaat activists attacked a police station in the northern district of Gaibanda.

Riots broke out in different parts of the country. In the southeastern district of Noakhali, some Islamic fundamentalists set fire to houses and temples of the Hindu community. In Dhaka, the capital, a series of bombs exploded in the residential districts of Mirpur-1, Kafrul, Mohammadpur, Motijheel, Abdullahpur, Khilgaon and Uttara. Police have tightened security in the city for fear that violence will escalate again after Friday prayers.

The Islamic Foundation, which answers to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, has asked all imams and mosques in the country not to feed the tension in the Muslim community.

Tensions are high in the country since February 5 last, when activists and bloggers of all ages, sexes and walks of life launched a peaceful demonstration to demand the government (led by the Awami League, ed) impose the death penalty for those accused of war crimes. Supporters of Jamaat (which is in opposition, ed) have accused the protesters of blasphemy and claim the war tribunals are "politicized". On 18 February, Parliament passed an amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973, which now allows the death sentence for war criminals. Since then, activists of the Jamaat-e-Shibir (youth wing of the party) have gone on a rampage of vandalism throughout the country, escalating until yesterday's climax.

The court found Delwar Hossain Sayeedi guilty of 19 charges, including: murder of innocent civilians; collaboration with the Pakistani army in killings and torture of unarmed people, arson, rapes. In addition, during the war, he forced some Hindus to convert to Islam, and seized assets and property belonging to this community.

 

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