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Bangladesh Protests Continue for 9th Day


Bangladeshi students shout slogans as they block a road during a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018.

Police in Bangladesh fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse students who protested for a ninth day demanding better enforcement of traffic safety laws.

The latest clashes involved hundreds of students in the Bashundhara neighborhood of the capital, Dhaka, where several private universities are located. Protesters said at least 40 people, mostly students, were injured.

Also Monday, rights group Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of Shahidul Alam, a celebrated photographer who has spoken out on social media about the student protests.

Amnesty International says Alam was detained after giving an interview about the Dhaka protests to Al-Jazeera English.

"There is no justification whatsoever for detaining anyone for solely peacefully expressing their views," Omar Waraich, Amnesty's deputy South Asia director, said in a statement.

Police say Alam was arrested on charges of spreading rumors on social media, aiming to incite violence.

In another development Monday, Bangladesh's Cabinet approved increasing the maximum jail time for reckless driving deaths from three years to five years in a bid to quell the student demonstrations. The Cabinet also said deliberate road deaths would carry the death penalty. The proposals must be approved by parliament before becoming law.

The students have been calling for better traffic laws and protections for pedestrians, following the deaths of two college students who were killed by unregulated commuter buses racing to pick up passengers.

WATCH: Street protests

Student Protests Over Traffic Safety in Bangladesh Continue Into Second Week
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​Students took to the streets last week, particularly in areas where accidents are common, to stage protests, check driver licenses, and direct traffic themselves, in some cases setting up traffic lanes to separate heavy vehicles from light ones.

Protesters have also vandalized vehicles. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters that more than 300 vehicles have been damaged this week, including some that have been set on fire.

Late Saturday, a car carrying U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat,was attacked by a group of armed men, but no one was hurt in the incident.

Police have been using tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has promised to grant the students their list of nine demands in phases. Demands include bringing to justice those responsible for Monday's traffic deaths; releasing students arrested in the protests; and the building of footbridges near all educational institutions.

The students say they will protest until the demands are met.

Bangladesh's National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads, and Railways found that more than 4,200 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents last year, most often because of reckless driving.