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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Staff Correspondent

Dhaka University students continued their demonstrations on Monday and said they would not accept anything but unconditional release of all detained teachers and students, and withdrawal of cases.

For the third straight day on Monday, they skipped classes for two hours and collected signatures to keep pressure on the government for accepting their demands.

Vice-chancellor SMA Faiz, who joined a meeting at the chief adviser's office on Monday, reiterated his hope that the detainees would be released with dignity, but did not give any timeframe.

A students' combine announced that demonstrations would continue until teachers and students were freed.

Impromptu cultural programmes added extra vigour to the demonstrations. Students, seemed not convinced by the government's assurance of freeing detainees through legal process, walked in silent processions and drew graffiti on campus roads Monday as they did in the past couple of days.

Students of dramatics department staged Raktakarabi, a play of Rabindranath Tagore while some others rendered songs.

Signatures were being collected on large banners at the Arts Building, Central Library, Curzon Hall and Science Annex to create public opinion in favour of the demands.

A delegation of the Students against Repression met the vice-chancellor and reiterated their demands for unconditional and immediate release of all the students and teachers arrested and implicated in five cases relating to the August 20-22 campus protests.

It vowed to continue demonstrations until January 17.

The organisation at a briefing said the Sunday's assurance from the government was not specific and different from such assurances made in the past. Despite previous assurances, students and teachers were still in jail and no sign was there to withdraw the cases, it pointed out.

It said the students would intensify their programmes if detained teachers and students were not freed by January 18.

Vice-chancellor SMA Faiz described the meeting at the chief adviser's office as a follow-up meeting to review the overall situation regarding the release of the detainees.

'We discussed the developments and were informed that the examinations of witnesses in the cases were completed,' he said reiterating his hope for having the detained teachers and students freed with dignity.

He declined to say when the legal process would be over.

Chaired by chief adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, the meeting was attended by foreign affairs adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, education adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman, law adviser AF Hassan Arif, LGRD adviser Anwarul Iqbal, chief of army staff Moeen U Ahmed, heads of the military intelligence and the national security intelligence and secretaries of the education and law ministries.

Former president of the Dhaka University Teachers' Association, AAMS Arefin Siddique, said nobody could assure that the detained teachers and students would be freed in a dignified manner. 'It seems that the Rajshahi University episode will rerun as the government said they will be freed through legal process.'

But this may make the situation more complicated,' he said. Withdrawal of cases and setting the detainees free with dignity will help ease the relation between the government and the university, he added.

Students at Rajshahi University also continued their demonstrations demanding unconditional release of all detainees, Our correspondent reports.

About 200 students under the banner of Students against Authoritarianism held a rally and staged musical programmes at Bablatala on the campus. They also marched in silent processions through the campus.

The Students against Repression at a briefing demanded the release of all detained students at the earliest and announced continuation of programmes including silent possession and wearing black badge until the demands were met.

Prosecution moves for quick disposal of cases

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