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Bangladesh Protest Toll Climbs

  • VOA News

Jamaat-e-Islami activists, protesting sentences handed down by a war crimes tribunal, block traffic by them in Bogra, Bangladesh, March 3, 2013.
Bangladesh has deployed troops to the country's north in an effort to end clashes between police and demonstrators Sunday, the fourth day of protests since a death sentence was handed down to a senior Islamist opposition leader.

Authorities say six people died Sunday in various locations.

Officials say at least 49 people have died since the beginning of the protests ignited by the death sentence given to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a senior member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. He was sentenced to death Thursday by a war crimes tribunal after being convicted for atrocities, including rape and mass killings.

Sayedee's lawyer has called the verdict unjust and has vowed to appeal.

Sayedee is the third Jamaat-e-Islami party member to be sentenced for war crimes since the tribunal was established in 2010.

On January 21, the court sentenced Abul Kalam Azad to death in absentia, finding him guilty of torture, rape, and genocide. On February 5, it sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison on similar charges. At least eight more Jamaat-e-Islami members are still on trial.

Human rights organizations have questioned the fairness of the trials, saying members of the defense have been unduly pressured.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on those in Bangladesh to stop the violence and express their views peacefully.

Bangladesh fought a nine-month war against Pakistan in 1971 to obtain its independence. The government says three million people died in the violence, although other estimates put the death toll lower.