RELIGION

Lady Justice statue removed from Bangladesh court complex

A statue of Lady Justice was removed from Bangladesh's Supreme Court premises under tight security after Islamist hard-liners pressed for its removal, the sculptor said Friday.

The statue of a woman holding a scale and sword in her hands was installed in December outside the court building. The woman is wrapped in a sari, a Bangladeshi revision of the usual representation, the Greek goddess Themis blindfolded and clad in a gown.

Some people protested late Thursday night near the court premises when workers removed the sculpture. The statue was covered and was kept nearby afterward.

Islamists oppose idol worship and consider the Lady Justice statue anti-Islamic. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a recent meeting with Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam that she did not like the statue.

Hefazat-e-Islam supporters protested in front of the main mosque in Dhaka several times after the statue was erected. The group, which has a network of students from thousands of Islamic schools across the country, had threatened to launch a mass movement if the government failed to remove the statue.

Sculptor Mrinal Haque said the removal was shocking for him. "I am feeling terrible," Haque told The Associated Press. "This is injustice, this is not fair. My mother has died and I can easily compare my present feeling with that loss."

A dozen activists belonging to a leftist student group marched through a street at Dhaka University on Friday to protest the statue's removal, but police blocked them with barbed-wire fences and fired tear gas. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured.

In 2008, protests led to the removal of a statue of a Bangladeshi mystic poet at a road crossing near Dhaka's airport.

The country of 160 million people is ruled by secular laws, but the influence of radical Islam has been increasing.

In recent years dozens of atheists, liberal writers, bloggers and publishers and members of minority communities and foreigners have been targeted and killed.