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Ershad backers clash with police

Dhaka, Dec. 28 (AP): Police in Bangladesh today used batons and tear gas to disperse thousands of stone-throwing supporters of Jatiya Party chief Hossain Mohammad Ershad, leaving several activists injured, a police official said.

The violence occurred in Rangpur town, about 250 km north of Dhaka, the area’s police chief Zahedur Rahman Chowdhury said by phone.

He said several people were injured in the melee during the protest against the rejection of Ershad’s application to stand in next month’s national election. Chowdhury did not say how many were injured, but ATN Bangla television channel reported that at least 50 people were hurt.

The election commission yesterday refused to allow Ershad to contest parliamentary seats in five districts in the January 22 polls — three in northern Bangladesh, one in Dhaka and another in the northeastern district of Moulvibazar. Ershad’s Jatiya Party has three days to appeal the commission’s decision.

Ershad was chief of the army when he came to power in a 1982 coup. He was ousted in a popular uprising in 1990 and has since been in and out of jail on a number of charges.

He faces a return to jail for two years in a decade-old multimillion dollar corruption case after the supreme court on Tuesday rejected an appeal against his high court conviction.

Under the constitution a person jailed for at least two years for a crime involving “moral turpitude” is banned from seeking elected office. The Jatiya Party said the verdict was part of a conspiracy to prevent Ershad from contesting the polls.

ATN Bangla said Ershad’s supporters marched yesterday through the streets of five districts in northern Bangladesh — traditionally the Jayita Party's stronghold. There were no pro-Ershad demonstrations in Dhaka.

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