Bangladesh mulls death penalty for traffic accident deaths

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UPDATE: ’s cabinet on Monday approved raising the maximum jail time for rash driving to five years from three, the law minister said, as students protested for a ninth day over the of two teenagers killed by a speeding bus in Dhaka.

“As per the proposed law, an accused has to face five years of jail for negligent driving (leading to ),” Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters after a cabinet meeting chaired by Hasina.

The deliberate running over of people will draw murder charges and carry the death sentence, he added. Parliament’s approval for the proposal to become law is seen as a formality, since Hasina’s ruling Awami League has an overwhelming majority.

Original story follows:

DHAKA — Bangladesh’s cabinet on Monday will consider capital punishment for traffic accident deaths, a law ministry official said, as tens of thousands of students protested for a ninth day over the deaths of two teenagers killed by a speeding bus in Dhaka.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who faces an election due by the end of the year, has accused her political rivals of trying to stir up anti-government sentiment using the deaths as a pretext. The opposition has denied involvement.

The crowded capital of 18 million has been paralyzed by angry school and college students demanding changes to transport laws following the July 29 deaths, after a privately-operated bus ran over a group of students.

“In this amendment it has been proposed to award the highest level of punishment if it is killing by an ,” said the law ministry official, who has been briefed on the matter but declined to be identified ahead of a decision.

Handing down the death for accidents is rare anywhere in the world, and Bangladesh transport officials listed measures ranging from 14 years in Britain in extreme cases to two years in India.

Three years in jail is the current maximum in Bangladesh.

Defying government warnings to end the protests, students in school uniforms have blocked most of Dhaka’s roads, setting up checkpoints that let through only emergency vehicles.

Police said they were still investigating Sunday’s attack on a car carrying the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh by a group of armed men, some riding motorcycles. There were no injuries but two vehicles were damaged.

The U.S. embassy said it was not in a position to comment until the investigation was complete. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat was returning from dinner at the time of the attack.

Earlier the embassy had criticized the police crackdown on the protesters, whom it described as having “united and captured the imagination of the whole country”.

Police had fired tear gas to break up the protests on Sunday and last week beat up some students in a bid to get them to disperse.

ARREST

Clashes During A Students Protest In Dhaka

Police detained social activist and photographer Shahidul Alam who had posted comments that a student wing of Hasina’s ruling party was trying to attack the protesters.

Alam’s organization, Drik Picture Library, said 30 to 35 men in plainclothes swept into his Dhaka apartment building, saying they were police detectives, and took him into custody.

Alam was screaming as he was forced into a car, it quoted security guards at the building as saying.

Dhaka’s additional deputy commissioner of police Obaidur Rahman said Alam was picked up for questioning, but gave no details.

Rights group Amnesty International called for Alam’s immediate and unconditional release, saying he had been detained following an interview to Al-Jazeera English on the Dhaka protests.

“There is no justification whatsoever for detaining anyone for solely peacefully expressing their views,” Omar Waraich, Amnesty’s deputy South Asia director, said in a statement.

“The Bangladeshi government must end the crackdown on the student protesters and people speaking out against it.”

More than 4,000 people die in road accidents each year in Bangladesh, one of the world’s highest rates. laws are poorly enforced and the students blame the private bus network for mishaps in a city choked by massive jams.

Sheikh Shafi, a polytechnic student injured in a protest on Saturday, said one problem was that bus drivers must work long hours as they do not receive monthly salaries but are paid commissions based on passenger numbers instead.

“Our demand is that the owners must appoint them and they will work a maximum of 10 hours. The commission-based system must be eliminated,” said Shafi, whose brother died in a road accident in 2015.

Reporting by Serajul Quadir and Ruma Paul.

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