[JURIST] The leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) [party website] and former prime minister Khaleda Zia [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was charged along with 55 other people on Wednesday for instigating an arson attack on a bus. In January, Zia called for an indefinite transport blockade [PTI report; JURIST report] after four BNP supporters were killed during clashes with pro-government activists and police. An unknown perpetrator firebombed the bus [BBC report] on Tuesday morning, killing seven and wounding 15. The attack is just one of a rash of firebombings against buses and cars, and more than 50 people have been killed and more than a thousand injured since the blockade began in January. Zia denies BNP involvement with attacks [BBC report] on vehicles during the blockade and has condemned the violence.
The political situation in Bangladesh has been tense in recent months following BNP’s boycott of the January 2014 elections, which were marked by considerable violence [Al Jazeera report] and returned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to power. In April Bangladesh’s High Court ruled that Zia must stand trial on corruption charges [JURIST report]. In February a former Bangladeshi minister from the Jatiya party [party website, in Bengali] was indicted by a Dhaka tribunal for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [Bangladesh News backgrounder] with Pakistan. Also in February Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] issued a statement [JURIST report] demanding that the Bangladesh government do more to prevent garment factory owners from intimidating workers for organizing trade unions and to prosecute any parties responsible for attacks on labor leaders.