Bangladesh rioting over court decision kills 44
Passions have boiled over in recent weeks as tribunals have tried suspects on accusations they committed crimes during the independence war. Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators during the fighting.
Thousands of students turned a Dhaka intersection into a protest camp last month demanding the execution of one Jamaat leader given a life sentence after his conviction for mass killings.
Sayedee's supporters responded to his sentence by clashing with police, attacking government offices and uprooting railway tracks in parts of the country. Protesters also set fire to dozens of houses belonging to government supporters.
Police responded with bullets and tear gas.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam accused security forces of deliberately killing the protesters. "It was another form of mass killings," he told reporters Friday. "We must stand up against such brutalities."
Jamaat has called for a nationwide general strike on Sunday and Monday to denounce the verdict.
At a news conference Friday, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, also called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday.
"This government has surpassed all records of suppressing the opposition. We must protest," she said.
At the United Nations in New York, a spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said protests should be peaceful.
"The secretary-general recognizes the right of people to protest, and it's the responsibility of both the authorities and the people protesting to assure this is done in a very peaceful manner," U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.
Associated Press writer Ron DePasquale contributed from the United Nations in New York.