Thousands rally to demand death penalty for war crimes in Bangladesh
Dhaka, Feb 9 : Frustrated at a war crimes verdict, thousands of people, mostly pro-ruling party men, flocked to Shahbag square, an iconic place in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, for the second consecutive day Wednesday, demanding death penalty for crimes against humanity in 1971.
Under the banner of "Bloggers and Online Activist Network," hundreds of people started to gather in the square since Tuesday afternoon after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, to life imprisonment for war crimes.
Apart from ruling partymen, including many ministers of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's cabinet, scores of dignitaries joined the sit-in Wednesday morning to drum up their demand.
The sit-in was staged when Jamaat enforced nationwide dawn-to- dusk hartal since Wednesday morning.
Rejecting the verdict, Jamaat called the hartal for Wednesday after it enforced a similar hartal Tuesday when hundreds of Jamaat men fought pitched battles with the law enforcers in Dhaka and elsewhere in country.
At least four people were reportedly killed while scores injured in fierce clashes between the pro-hartal activists and the law enforcers in Bangladesh's southeastern Chittagong seaport city during Tuesday's strike.
Scores of pro-hartal activists equipped with sticks and brick chips also fought pitched battles with the law enforcers in capital Dhaka and elsewhere in country during the early hours of Wednesday's hartal when they blasted cocktails and handmade bombs.
Jamaat, which has long been demonstrating against the government's bid to try war criminals, last week also staged a daylong hartal demanding the release of its top detained senior members, including its spiritual leader Ghulam Azam.
Apart from six Jamaat senior officials, a few leaders of ex- Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are also facing trials.
Both BNP and Jamaat, which allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani forces in 1971 to prevent the independence of Bangladesh, have already dismissed the court as a government "show trial" and said it is a domestic set-up without UN oversight or involvement.
Jamaat, which recently showed its huge muscle against the law enforcement agencies, threatened to escalate the armed struggle if Hasina's government does not immediately free its leaders who face charges of war crimes.
Agitating Shahbagh protesters have been showing their dissatisfaction by rendering songs and staging dramas. Many were also seen to sing songs, play guitars and beat drums.