Dhaka, Feb 6: Bangladesh government has warned protesters of stern legal actions like the death penalty under the anti-terrorism law if they continue with the violence that has claimed 66 lives in the ongoing political unrest.
"Such activities are liable to stringent punishment, according to the Anti-Terrorism Act-2009," it said, referring to the deaths and grievous injuries caused by arson attacks.
The statement came hours after opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia vowed to continue the anti-government protests, saying "I am ready to face any consequences as our backs have been pushed against the wall. We have no alternative to the movement."
Immediately after Zia's remarks, the state-run Bangladesh TV warned that the saboteurs would face death penalty for activities like burning people to death by throwing petrol bombs on vehicles.
Officials familiar with the government plan to enforce the anti-terror law said the cabinet preferred to activate the existing law after reviewing options to enact fresh laws to handle the unrest.
In a statement, the Home Ministry also highlighted the other legal provisions against instigating and patronising violence under the law which was amended last year suggesting tough punitive actions.
Meanwhile, a court in Panchagarh took cognisance of a case accusing former prime minister Zia of "instigating arson attack" in the district recently. The complaint has been filed by a ruling Awami League supporter.
Police in Dhaka and central Comilla has already slapped similar charges against her in connection with two of the worst arson attacks that left over 12 people dead. Zia has been accused of ordering the attacks in the cases and legal experts said she could be arrested if investigations point towards her involvement in instigating the violence.
Several of her party leaders, including BNP's acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, were put behind bars to face charges in connection with the spate of violence.
Zia, however, has refused to accept the liability of the deaths caused by the unrest, saying "that we do not do politics with people's lives". She holds her arch-rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as responsible for the deaths.
Two more deaths overnight took the death toll in the violence to 66 as the BNP enforced non-stop nationwide blockade entered its 31st day today. Reports said 39 of the 66 dead so far are victims of arson attacks.