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Clashes mark Bangladesh opposition strike

Violent clashes between police and protesters take place during 48-hour shutdown called by Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Last Modified: 13 Aug 2013 17:22
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Most small shops remained closed in capital as the streets wore a deserted look early in the morning [AFP]

Police and protesters have clashed during a 48-hour general strike called by Bangladesh's largest Islamic party against a court verdict cancelling its registration with the Election Commission.

Several thousand supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party took to the streets in two areas of Meherpur, a district 200km west of the capital, Dhaka, police said on Tuesday.

The court order banning Jamaat came in the wake of sentencing of its top leadership by a War Crimes Tribunal set up to look into atrocities committed during the nation's liberation war.

Most small business and shops remained closed in Dhaka, while long-route buses and transport trucks were grounded at city terminals due to the strike.

A huge contingent of riot police along with armoured vehicles were deployed at key points in Dhaka to prevent possible violence.

Tear gas

TV stations reported that Jamaat supporters blocked roads and burned tires to enforce the shutdown.

Security forces used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd, local media reported.

At least 50 people, including 10 policemen, were injured in the clashes.

In Laxmipur in the country's southeast, activists detonated 10 crude bombs, but there were no reports of injuries, according to local media.

A spokesman for Dhaka metropolitan police told AFP that five protesters were arrested over the demonstrations.

On August 1, a High Court panel ruled that the Jamaat-e-Islami party's regulations violated the constitutional provision of secularism by saying it wanted to impose Islamic law, or Sharia.

Because of the court decision, the party could be barred from taking part in the next elections.

The ruling came amid calls to ban the party for opposing the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Activists detained

A US-based human rights group on Monday denounced the arrest of a prominent Bangladeshi activist over allegations the group he works for made false accusations against government forces after a deadly crackdown on a protest in May.

Human Rights Watch demanded immediate release of Adilur Rahman Khan who was picked up by the police in front of his residence in the capital late on Saturday.

"The arrest of Adil Khan appears to be an attempt to silence one of the Bangladeshi government's most vocal critics prior to national elections," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The US government also urged Bangladesh to free Khan, saying his detention had a "chilling effect" on civil society.

On Sunday, a Dhaka court approved a police appeal to keep Khan, who is secretary of the Dhaka-based rights group Odhikar, in custody for five days for questioning.

Police had said they recovered 11 dead bodies, including an officer hacked in the head with machetes, but in a detailed report released last month, Odhikar said that about 60 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest crackdowns in Bangladesh's history.

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