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Bangladesh begins judicial inquiry into anti-government protests

Bangladesh begins judicial inquiry into anti-government protests

A retired judge launched an investigation Tuesday into last week's student protests that escalated into violent anti-government street clashes across Bangladesh, leaving at least one person dead and prompting the government to impose a curfew.
Former High Court justice Habibur Rahman Khan said he would interview students, teachers, law enforcement officers and other witnesses as part of a judicial inquiry to ascertain the causes behind the protests and to identify those responsible.
Khan urged witnesses to volunteer information "without fear of harassment," adding that he may also talk to suspects who are being detained by police.
Khan _ a High Court judge in the 1990s _ said the investigation was expected to last 15 days.
The country's military-backed interim government imposed a nighttime curfew in six major cities Aug. 22 after two days of violent demonstrations. People and vehicles disappeared from the streets during curfew hours, and no more demonstrations were reported.
The Home Ministry lifted the curfew Monday, but security forces continued to patrol the bustling streets of Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal, witnesses said.
The government still fears that "miscreants can try to create a situation. So the troops will continue to patrol streets," said a senior police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make comments to the media.
The protests began Aug. 20 at Dhaka University with students demanding the removal of army posts on college campuses. Teachers backed the students, and the protests turned into demands for an end to emergency rule imposed in January.
The demonstrations quickly spread to other college campuses and spilled onto the streets, with vendors and slum-dwellers joining in, setting vehicles on fire and damaging buildings and public property.
Authorities closed all public universities and colleges, and ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence.
Security forces have detained several people suspected of instigating the unrest, including five university teachers, and the Home Ministry said Monday that the government planned to take legal action against those found responsible for the violence.
President Iajuddin Ahmed canceled scheduled elections in January following weeks of violent opposition protests demanding electoral reforms. Ahmed declared a state of emergency and appointed a nonpartisan caretaker government.
The interim government has been cracking down on corruption, arresting several top politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen suspected of graft and abuse of power. It has also vowed to clean up the country's factional political scene before holding new elections by the end of 2008.
The Election Commission, meanwhile, has started making a new voter list and plans to reform electoral laws.
On Tuesday, Chief Election Commissioner Shamsul Huda said the commission would sit with political parties from Sept. 12 to discuss the proposed electoral reforms.
Demonstrations, strikes, political activities or open criticism of the government are not allowed under emergency rule.


Updated : 2021-05-16 18:25 GMT+08:00