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July 4, 2004 

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Speedy trial for trafficking
Seventeen women and children trafficking cases will be tried in the Speedy Trial Tribunals, while 344 are under trial in different trial courts and 25 are under investigation. An inter-ministerial meeting, held on Sunday on human trafficking, decided to try sensational women and children trafficking cases in the Speedy Trial Tribunals in order to check human trafficking after being threatened with sanctions by the United States. Five-hundred and sixty-two cases had so far been filed against 616 persons on trafficking charges. Twenty-four people had been convicted for trafficking, 23 had been given life terms and one had been awarded rigorous imprisonment for 10 years. The meeting also formed a monitoring cell comprising representatives of ministries of home and law, Attorney General's office and NGOs to pursue the trafficking cases. The meeting identified Dhaka, Barisal, Benapole, Satkhira, Chapainawabganj, Darshana and Dinajpur as vulnerable points for human trading. -New Age,28th June.

One held for Banshkhali carnage
The police 27th June arrested a man at Khankanabad village for suspected involvement in the Banshkhali carnage. In a predawn raid, the Banshkhali police arrested Akbar, pushing the number of arrested in the case to 30. Akbar is accused in a number of cases, the police claimed. Eleven persons of a single household, including seven women and a four-day infant, were burnt alive early November 19, 2003. - New Age, 28th June.

EPZ Trade Unionism
US Ambassador Harry K Thomas yesterday warned Bangladesh of withdrawing either the GSP (generalised system of preferences) facility or export-import bank financing if it does not adhere to labour standards and allow trade unionism in its exclusive trade zones by the month-end. The US envoy said at a 'Meet-the-Press' address titled "US-Bangladesh Relations", celebrating the golden jubilee of the National Press Club at its VIP lounge yesterday. The cabinet on May 23 approved a draft law titled, "EPZ Workers Association and Industrial Relations Act, 2004" to allow limited trade unionism in the six exclusive trade zones. Dhaka made an agreement with Washington and other donors on May 10 to adhere to International Labour Organisation standards, including the rights to association and collective bargaining, at the EPZs (export processing zones) by June 30. The government decided to allow limited trade union activities in the exclusive industrial areas from November 1, 2006. -The Daily Star, 29th June.

US envoy for Bangla Bhai's arrest
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Harry K Thomas yesterday condemned the Sunday murder of Khulna Press Club President Humayun Kabir Balu saying radicals including Bangla Bhai, religious and political extremists should be arrested immediately. Thomas said, "Fundamentalist groups have killed Humayun Kabir Balu. Fundamentalists are killing journalists today, they might kill everyone tomorrow. Police should now arrest Bangla Bhai and other fundamentalists." -The Daily Star, 29th June.

DB takes over Balu murder case
The investigation of the murder of the Khulna-based Janmabhumi editor, Humayun Kabir Balu, also the Khulna Press Club president, was transferred to the Detective Branch Tuesday evening. The police, meanwhile, sent four of the detained to jail after seeking 10-day remand for them.

The Purba Banglar Communist Party (ML) has sent a fax message to the Khulna Press Club claiming the responsibility which said the killers had been serving self-interest and there is no interest of the common people or revolution involved in the murder. -New Age,30th June.

2,078 people killed in last 6 months
As many as 2,078 people including three journalists were killed in last six months, showing an upturn in murders comparing to the killings of corresponding time last year, according to Bureau of Human Rights Bangladesh (BHRB). The BHRB in its report said 392 people, 13 on an average every day, were killed across the country in June.

Odhikar, a human rights organisation, in its report said 287 people were killed in last six months due to political violence, the number of which was 195 from January to June in 2003. The report further said 143 people including women and children were acid-burnt, while 52 people died in police custody. As many as 451 women and children were raped during the time. Of them, 63 were killed and eight committed suicide, the report added. -Daily Star,1st July.

Gas Act in next parliament session
The government has finalised a 'Gas Act' to ensure better management of the sector and it may be placed in the next parliament session, State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources AKM Mosharraf Hossain said yesterday.

Mosharraf hoped the law will empower the newly formed Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to function as a fully independent body.

"The move will encourage entrepreneurs to establish more CNG stations in the country and thus solve the problems of CNG users," the state minister hoped.

The energy minister said prepaid meters will be introduced for electricity billing from January 1 next year. According to Mahmood, at present there is 28 percent systems loss in the electricity sector. He said the government is planning to privatise the electricity transmission system to reduce the systems loss and pilferage. -Daily Star, 2nd July.

High Court order was violated
The High Court's order on army deployment at every polling centre of Dhaka-10 by-polls was violated and the election was not held up to expectations, said by acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)."I hope legal action will be taken against the persons responsible for the violation. The High Court will take legal action if the matter is brought to its cognisance," said the acting CEC.

Turning down the Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh's (BDB's) demand for cancellation of the by-election, Safiur said the EC had not got any evidence of the alleged polling centre captures or stuffing of the ballot boxes. The election can not be annulled on the ground of absence of army and polling agents alone, he maintained. On the absence of BDB candidate's polling agents, Safiur admitted agents for kula were absent in most of the polling centres he visited.

Earlier, the EC asked the government to commit at least five army personnel along with police, paramilitary forces and ansars to each of the constituency's 103 polling centres.

But the government on Sunday virtually rejected the EC's request for army deployment, as the home ministry reviving an earlier circular informed the EC that two companies of army would be deployed as strike force in the constituency, not every voting centre. The government stance forced the EC to depend on the court.- Law Desk, 2nd July.

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