Ex-dictator's supporters strike, rally for his right to stand in Bangladesh poll

Police in Bangladesh on Thursday used batons and tear gas to disperse thousands of stone-throwing supporters of a former military ruler, leaving several activists injured, a police official said.
The violence occurred in Rangpur town, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital Dhaka, the area's police chief Zahedur Rahman Chowdhury told The Associated Press by phone.
He said several people were injured in the melee during the protest against the rejection of former President Hussain Muhammad Ershad's application to stand in next month's national election.
Chowdhury did not say how many were injured, but ATN Bangla television reported that at least 50 people were hurt.
The Election Commission on Wednesday refused to allow Ershad to contest parliamentary seats in five districts in the Jan. 22 polls _ three in northern Bangladesh, one in Dhaka and another in the northeastern district of Moulvibazar.
Ershad's Jatiya Party has three days to appeal the commission's decision.
Ershad was chief of the army when he came to power in a 1982 coup. He was ousted in a popular uprising in 1990 and has since been in and out of jail on a number of charges.
He faces a return to jail for two years in a decade-old multimillion dollar corruption case after the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal against his High Court conviction.
Under the constitution a person jailed for at least two years for a crime involving "moral turpitude" is banned from seeking elected office.
The Jatiya Party said the verdict was part of a conspiracy to prevent Ershad from contesting the polls.
ATN Bangla said Ershad's supporters marched Thursday through the streets of five districts in northern Bangladesh _ traditionally the Jayita Party's stronghold. There were no pro-Ershad demonstrations in Dhaka or Moulvibazar.
The activists also forced businesses and schools in the northern districts to stay closed, but no violence was reported, ATN said.
The Election Commission meanwhile asked the Interior Ministry to deploy troops from Jan. 10 to control law and order in the run-up to polling day.
More than 30 people have been killed and scores injured in two months of violent nationwide strikes and transport blockades staged by activists seeking electoral reform.

Updated : 2021-01-28 18:13 GMT+08:00