By Serajul Quadir
DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh’s government demanded on Wednesday that the U.S. embassy withdraw criticism over its handling of days-long student protests in the capital over a fatal traffic accident.
Tens of thousands of students have blocked streets of Dhaka for more than a week, demanding safer roads, after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus. Police fired tear gas and beat up students to force them to disperse but they have stayed on. Scores of people have been hurt in demonstrations.
On Sunday, the U.S. embassy posted a statement on Facebook saying youngsters engaging in peaceful protests were exercising their democratic rights and that nothing could justify “brutal attacks and violence” against young people.
The United Nations said it too was concerned about violence in the streets and called for calm.
Information Minister Hasanul Hoque Inu said police had acted with restraint and that both the United States and the United Nations had overstepped the line with their criticism.
“We urge to withdraw this statement. This is discourteous,” Hoque said of the U.S. statement, adding the government would write to the embassy and the United Nations to register its protest.
On Sunday a group of armed men attacked a vehicle carrying the U.S. ambassador. There were no injuries but two vehicles were damaged. Police said on Wednesday they were still investigating the case.
Students are demanding changes to transport laws following the July 29 deaths, after the driver of a privately operated bus lost control and ran over a group of students.
Police also said they were retaining custody of activist and photographer Shahidul Alam for more questioning after he was taken to hospital for a checkup on Wednesday. Alam was picked up from his home on Sunday after he had posted comments on social media that a student wing of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling party was trying to attack the protesters.
The police said he was arrested on charges of spreading rumours on social media, aiming to incite violence. His detention has sparked criticism from rights groups.
(Writing by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Peter Graff)