July 16, 2013
By Julhas Alam
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Opposition supporters attacked police during a nationwide general strike Tuesday in southwestern Bangladesh, prompting police to open fire, a police official said. Two opposition supporters were killed.
The violence took place in Satkhira district when hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami party supporters were marching to enforce the daylong strike, called to protest the jailing of the party’s former chief Ghulam Azam for his role during the country’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971.
Police opened fire after the Jamaat-e-Islami supporters attacked an officer with machetes, local police official Tajul Islam said. In addition to the two dead, three other activists were injured as well as nine police officials.
A special tribunal on Monday sentenced the 91-year-old Azam to 90 years in jail but his supporters denounced the verdict.
The tribunal said Azam deserved capital punishment, but received a jail sentence instead because of his advanced age and poor health.
The verdict also angered those who wanted to see a harsher penalty.
Azam led Jamaat-e-Islami in then-east Pakistan in 1971 when Bangladesh gained independence through a nine-month war. He is among several Jamaat-e-Islami leaders convicted by a tribunal formed in 2010 by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to try those accused of collaborating with the Pakistani army in the war.
Bangladesh says the Pakistani army killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the war.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, says the tribunal is intended to weaken the opposition. Jamaat-e-Islami is a key political ally of Zia’s party and shared cabinet posts during Zia’s term as prime minister from 2001-2006.
Protests over previous verdicts also turned deadly.
On Tuesday, a second tribunal announced that it would have a verdict Wednesday on the case of Ali Ahsan Mojaheed, the secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami. Mojaheed is accused of leading a notorious group that during the war kidnapped and killed many teachers, journalists and writers who supported the cause for independence.
That announcement prompted Jamaat-e-Islami to call another strike for Wednesday.