DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of students rallied in Bangladesh’s capital on Saturday demanding death to Islamic political party leaders who are on trial for alleged war crimes during the country’s 1971 independence war.
Eight top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party, are being tried on charges of mass killings, rapes and arson allegedly committed during Bangladesh’s nine-month war of separation from Pakistan.
Earlier this month, a tribunal convicted party leader Abdul Quader Mollah of mass killings during the war and sentenced him to life in prison, a sentence that many Bangladeshis considered lenient.
On Saturday, about 5,000 students shouted “Death to the killers” as they rallied in Dhaka.
The government says it will appeal Mollah’s sentence before the Supreme Court this coming week, asking for the death penalty for the 65-year-old.
Saturday’s protest came a day after activists from Jamaat and an alliance of 12 other Islamic parties clashed with police across the country, leaving four people dead and around 200 injured, including about a dozen journalists.
After Friday’s violence, the Islamic party alliance called a nationwide general strike for Sunday, accusing the police of foiling their protests and alleging that the government is planning to ban religion-based political parties. The government denies that religion-based parties will be banned.
The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, said it would back Sunday’s strike.
Sunday is a working day in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, where strikes are common opposition tactics to highlight demands.