Monday, September 3, 2007

Bangladesh used fear to end campus unrest

Rights group says Bangladesh used fear to end campus unrest

DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh's leading rights group Sunday accused the country's military-backed government of using scare tactics such as midnight arrests to end campus unrest last month.

Police and paramilitaries clashed with students protesting emergency rule in pitched battles that left one dead and dozens injured, and led the government to impose a curfew.

The Odhikar group said the government had ignored basic rights in quelling the protests and noted five top academics and dozens of students were still detained without due legal process.

"Attacks on academics' freedom of speech by arresting them in the middle of the night while a curfew is in place, instilling fear amongst teachers and students, is a practice the current administration must stop," the group said in a statement.

"In particular, the fact that academics were arrested without a warrant; that they were held incommunicado for nearly 40 hours at an unknown location before being brought before a court; and that they were held in a facility called the Joint Interrogation Cell causes concern that rights under national and international law are not respected by the authorities."

The statement came after three of the five academics became ill on Saturday while in custody and were moved to a hospital in northwestern city of Rajshahi.

The government had accused thugs acting on behalf of the country's sidelined political parties of attempting to bring down the government through the protests.

The government, which came to power after an emergency was imposed following the cancellation of national polls in January, withdrew the curfew last week.

Protests and political activity were banned under the state of emergency imposed because opposition parties claimed planned polls were rigged by the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party government.

The government led by former central bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed came to power on January 12 and has promised to clean up Bangladesh's corrupt politics before holding fresh elections in late 2008.

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