Bangladesh announces talks to ease tensions ahead of polls

August 30th, 2008 - 12:09 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Aug 29 (DPA) The military-backed interim government in Bangladesh plans to hold talks beginning next week with major political parties to ease rising tensions ahead of the promised year-end general election, officials said Friday.The talks with the former ruling Islamic Nationalist Alliance and the secular Awami League are scheduled for Sep 6 and 9 after political-inspired violence led to the appointment of the caretaker government in January 2007.

The Election Commission said altogether 16 political parties and groups were invited by Chief Election Commissioner Shamsul Huda for talks focused on issues concerning the holding of a fair and credible election.

“We are encouraging the dialogues to create a climate of trust and confidence among the political leaderships in the parties, which are rife with simmering discontent,” Huda said.

Observers have warned of political turmoil in the impoverished country if the parliamentary polls are not held by December as promised.

Meanwhile, the Awami League, the country’s major opposition party, protested a Dhaka High Court decision to overturn guilty verdicts against six former army officers accused of killing captive political leaders, news reports said.

Two officers handed death sentences in 2004 were cleared Thursday of charges involving their role in a prison massacre in 1975, in which four top Awami League leaders were gunned down in their cells while four officers serving life sentences were also acquitted in the massacre.

The killings took place shortly after a coup in which the country’s first president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was killed along with most of his family.

The high court said the police had failed to produce adequate evidence against the men.

In 2004 after a 1996 murder suit was filed by then-prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Mujib’s daughter, a court sentenced three officers to death and 12 to life in prison for the killings.

A spokesman for Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League said the party was “disappointed” over the acquittals.

The high court, however, confirmed the death sentence against non-commissioned officer Moslem Uddin Ahmad for his role in the killings of Nov 3, 1975, inside the Dhaka Central Jail, court sources said.

Four of the acquitted officers were already sentenced to death for leading the coup against Mujib.

Prosecutor Anisul Haque said he planned to appeal the verdict.

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