More than 100,000 Bangladeshi protesters, angered by the killing of one of their leaders, poured back onto the streets of the capital on Saturday to demand the death penalty for those found guilty of war crimes in the 1971 independence conflict.
The demonstrators, who denounced a life sentence handed down this month on an Islamist leader involved in the war, reversed a decision to scale back demonstrations, now in their 12th day.
Rajib Haider, an architect, was a key figure in organising the demonstrations and wrote a blog devoted to them under the pen name Thaba baba. He was attacked outside his home on Friday night after returning from a 100,000-strong rally in Shahbag Square.
On Saturday, an even larger crowd thronged the square to attend funeral prayers for Haider, many vowing to avenge his death or breaking down in tears as his coffin passed.
Haider’s family told reporters they believed he was stabbed to death for standing up to the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party and drawing people to the protests. Police said they had detained five suspects.
“Haider’s death has rekindled our spirits,” said Nasiruddin Yusuf, a film-maker. “It will not go in vain.”
Large protests gripped other cities. Security forces patrolled streets in much greater numbers than in previous days.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Haider’s home and told his grieving parents justice would be done.
“Rajib Haider’s killers have no right to do politics,” she said in comments broadcast live on television. She said Jamaat and its affiliates “do not believe in democracy. They believe in terrorism. That is what they are proving again.”
The protests were triggered by the life sentence imposed on Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary-general of Jamaat, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party. Most Bangladeshis had expected a death sentence on charges of murder, rape and torture.
Protesters vow to remain
Protest leaders vowed to remain on the street until Mollah, 64, is sentenced to death, along with others convicted of committing crimes during the war….