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Empowering the poor in Bangladesh

Amnesty International met with a leading NGO in Bangladesh to explore how the poor are organizing themselves to overcome poverty, gender inequality and illiteracy. The AI delegation visited projects in Tangail and Rajshahi in northern Bangladesh run by BRAC (an international development organization) on Sunday. They met with women at a village micro-finance meeting, observed a human rights education class for women and visited a primary school and maternal health centre. They saw at first hand how active participation of the poor contributes to strengthening economic and social rights of the marginalized rural population. In Rajshahi, Amnesty International met victims of violence carried out by Islamist group, Jama'atul Mujahideen (JMB). Many explained they had received no compensation and couldn’t return to their homes, which in some cases had been destroyed. Despite action by the authorities against some JMB leaders, the victims claimed they continue to live in fear for their safety as JMB cadres and officials who had collaborated with them roam freely in the area. The delegation also met with Rajshahi University professors, who were prosecuted, convicted and then pardoned by the President following their arrest last August. They were charged with inciting students to protest against the government. Amnesty International believes the prosecutions were politically motivated and made on the basis of insufficient and inadequate evidence. The individuals have said they will appeal, claiming the pardon is not sufficient. Amnesty International believes an acquittal would be the fairest outcome and calls on the government not to oppose any appeal.