Bangladeshis hold violent protests over war crime trials

DHAKA (AFP) - Thousands of student activists from Bangladesh's largest Islamic party clashed with police on Monday, throwing petrol bombs and bricks to protest at the trial of their leaders for alleged war crimes.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets during the unrest involving 3,000 people in Dhaka's main commercial district. At least 25 police officers were injured and 20 people were arrested, police officer Moktar Hossain told AFP.

The violence came just a week after an official from the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party was sentenced to death for genocide by a court set up to try war crime suspects from Bangladesh's 1971 liberation conflict.

"Jamaat activists attacked us with sticks and stones and hurled several small bombs. They smashed and torched at least a dozen vehicles," said Mr Hossain.

The war crimes tribunal, which is accused by the opposition of holding false and politically motivated trials, is expected to deliver a verdict on Jamaat's fourth-highest official later this week.

Eight other Jamaat top figures including its leader and deputy leader are also being tried by the tribunal.

Rights groups have questioned the fairness of the hearings, saying the laws and procedures under which the opposition leaders are being tried fall short of international standards.

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