3 die as Bangladesh Islamic party activists clash with police over war crimes trial

Supporters of an Islamic party exploded home-made bombs and clashed with police during a general strike Thursday, leaving at least three people dead and dozens injured, police and news reports said.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party called a nationwide shutdown for Thursday to back its demand that the government stop a trial of the party's leaders on charge of crimes against humanity involving Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

A policeman was killed and eight others were injured after stone-throwing protesters clashed with baton-wielding police in Jessore district about 135 kilometers (85 miles) west of the capital, Dhaka, the Daily Star newspaper reported.

Two protesters were killed in similar clashes in Bogra, 176 kilometers (100 miles) north of Dhaka, according to local journalist Rabiul Karim Helal, who saw the bodies in a hospital.

Police officials were not immediately available to comment on the reported deaths.

Somoy TV and Independent Television stations reported that Jamaat members exploded crude bombs and attacked a few vehicles to enforce the strike. Several people were injured in the violence in Dhaka, the reports said.

Six leaders of the party, including its chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, are on trial before Dhaka's International Crimes Tribunal. They are accused of playing roles in atrocities carried out by Pakistani troops during the nine-month conflict.

Jamaat denies the charges of charges, although it did oppose Bangladesh's separation from Pakistan. Bangladesh says the war killed 3 million people, while 200,000 women raped were raped.

Early this month, fugitive Islamic cleric Abul Kalam Azad was sentenced to death in the first verdict in the war crimes trial.

International rights groups have called for fair trials to be held in accordance with international standards.