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US 'saddened' by deaths in Bangladesh clashes

Bangladeshi police officials fire rubber bullets and teargas shells towards demonstrators on March 1, 2013 in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi police officials fire rubber bullets and teargas shells towards demonstrators during a clash with activists on March 1, 2013 in Bangladesh. The US called for calm Friday after dozens were killed in clashes that erupted in Bangladesh when a sen

The United States called for calm Friday after dozens were killed in clashes that erupted in Bangladesh when a senior Islamist leader was convicted for crimes in the 1971 war of independence.

"We're saddened by the loss of life during protests across Bangladesh," said State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell.

"While engaging in a peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right, we believe violence is never the answer," he told journalists.

"We encourage all Bangladeshis to peacefully express their views, and we welcome peaceful efforts by the government of Bangladesh to help calm the situation."

But he stressed that the United States believes "it is important to bring justice to those who have committed war crimes and atrocities," adding that "it is very important for these trials to be free, fair, transparent."

Violence flared across Bangladesh on Thursday, leaving about 35 people dead after the vice president of the opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami was sentenced to death for murder, religious persecution and rape.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee was the third person to be convicted since the tribunal delivered its first verdict on January 21 concerning crimes carried out during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Clashes following the verdicts have so far killed some 53 people, according to an AFP toll.

The government, which says the war claimed three million lives, accuses Jamaat leaders of being part of pro-Pakistani militias during the 1971 carnage. Independent estimates put the death toll much lower, at 300,000 to 500,000.

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