Bangladesh anti-government protesters jailed

AP News
Posted: Jun 12, 2011 1:15 AM
Bangladesh anti-government protesters jailed

Authorities in Bangladesh jailed dozens of protesters Sunday as the opposition enforced its second nationwide general strike this month against government moves to amend the constitution.

At least 50 protesters were sentenced to up to a month in jail in one-day trials for attacking buses and creating public disturbances in pre-strike violence Saturday, said Krishnapada Roy, the deputy police commissioner in the capital, Dhaka.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its Islamic fundamentalist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, started enforcing the 36-hour strike beginning at dawn Sunday, a working day in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

The opposition staged a similar shutdown early this month. It says the government wants to repeal a constitutional provision that requires it to hand over power at the end of its term to a nonpartisan administration to conduct new polls. A former chief justice is usually chosen to head the three-month caretaker administration.

The change would mean the next general elections due in 2014 would be overseen by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. That could lead to vote-rigging favoring Hasina's party, opposition spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Saturday.

Thousands of riot police patrolled the streets of Dhaka on Sunday, where shops and schools were closed and traffic was disrupted by the shutdown.

No violence was reported Sunday. But opposition supporters set fire to 11 buses during protests Saturday, police said.

No one was hurt in the attacks on the buses, which were parked in central Dhaka awaiting passengers, Roy said, adding that security had been tightened to prevent further violence.

"We will not bow to police harassment. Our protest will continue," said opposition spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.

"The government wants to cling to power. That's why it wants to amend the constitution," Alamgir said.

The government denies the charge.

The move came after the Supreme Court ruled that the provision, included in the constitution in 1996, is undemocratic.

Since the provision's introduction, Bangladesh has held three parliamentary polls supervised by nonpartisan interim governments.

In a speech Friday, Hasina urged the opposition to discuss the issue in Parliament.

"Politics should be discussed in Parliament, not in the street," Hasina said.

In Bangladesh, opposition groups commonly enforce general strikes to highlight their demands.