Garment union leader murdered in Bangladesh

DHAKA - A prominent Bangladesh garment union leader has been found murdered with his body bearing "severe" torture marks, police said Monday.

Police discovered the body of Aminul Islam dumped by the roadside in Ghatail, nearly 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Dhaka, on Friday and buried it in a state-run graveyard the next day after finding no claimant, police said.

"Aminul's family identified him after seeing photos of the body and his clothes. He was a garment activist from the Ashulia industrial area," local police chief Mahbubul Haq told AFP.

"He was murdered. His legs had severe torture marks including a hole made by a sharp object. All his toes were broken," he said.

Islam, 40, disappeared Wednesday in Ashulia, the country's main textile hub, 30 kilometres north of Dhaka.

He was one of the organisers of 2006 and 2010 demonstrations pushing for wage hikes that swept Bangladesh's textile industry for months, forcing the country's 5,000 factories to raise salaries for three million workers.

Bangladesh is the world's second-largest apparel exporter with overseas sales of more than $19 billion in 2011.

Islam was a senior official of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation.

BCWS chief Kalpona Akter accused intelligence agencies and garment firm owners of being behind Islam's murder.

During the 2010 wage protests, Islam was picked up by officers of a security intelligence agency from the government's labour office, Akter told AFP.

"They took him to the agency headquarters, tortured him, broke one of his toes and then took him to (the northern district of) Mymensingh from where he miraculously escaped," he said.

In recent weeks, Islam had been helping 8,000 workers of Shanta Group, a leading garment manufacturer based outside Dhaka, push for trade union rights and benefits, she said.

The factory supplies leading US clothing stores, according to Akter.

The garment sector accounts for 80 per cent of Bangladesh's exports and is the mainstay of the impoverished country's economy.

After the 2010 wage protests, the government cracked down on garment activists, detaining top union leaders including Akter and Islam.

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