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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Bangladesh opposition vows to fight bill
Awami League members protest against the new bill
The opposition says the bill will be a tool of oppression
Bangladesh opposition parties have vowed to go to court to challenge a controversial new crime bill which they say will be used to persecute government critics.


The law is intended to establish one-party rule

Awami League spokesman

The security law was approved on Tuesday by parliament, which the opposition is boycotting, after government pledges to improve law and order.

The bill, which expires after two years, provides for the speedy trial in special magistrates courts of extortionists, hijackers, vandals and other criminals.

Hundreds of lawyers took to the streets of the capital Dhaka on Tuesday to demonstrate against the law, which they believe will threaten the right to a fair trial.

The ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia came to power last year promising to deal with escalating crime in the country.

Challenge

The opposition Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina said it would challenge the bill in the courts.

"The law is intended to establish one-party rule by arresting opposition leaders so that they cannot stage street protests against the government's misrule," senior party leader Tofael Ahmed told the Reuters news agency.

Police arrest Awami League activist during Saturday's strike
The government says the opposition is tarnishing the country's image

The legislation calls for sentences of two to five years for crimes that disrupt social stability.

Its approval in parliament came a week after the government scrapped a similar security law passed by the previous Awami League administration.

It also followed a day-long general strike on Saturday, called by the opposition in protest at the deteriorating law and order situation in Bangladesh.

Hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers deployed during the stoppage.

There was little violence, but two people were injured when a home-made bomb exploded in an area of old Dhaka city.

Business leaders estimate that the strike cost the country in excess of $60m.

The government says that the Awami League is trying to tarnish the international image of Bangladesh as part of its bid to win back power.

See also:

06 Apr 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh stops for strike
02 Apr 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh changes security law
11 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh law and order promise
08 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh protest against acid attacks
04 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bank robbers strike terror in Dhaka
16 Feb 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh cracks down on crime
10 Dec 01 | South Asia
Dhaka lynchings spread alarm
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