Ten militants on Sunday were sentenced to death and nine others jailed for 20 years each by a court in Bangladesh for attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2000.
The convicts had hatched the plot to kill Hasina in 2000 by planting a high-powered explosive device at an open ground at her village home in southwestern Gopalganj where she was scheduled to address a public rally. Security officials, however, detected the bomb ahead of the rally.
On further investigation, outlawed Harkatul Jihad-e-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI) chief Mufti Hannan, who was executed earlier this year in another case involving attempted assassination of the then Bangladeshi-origin British High Commissioner, was found to be the mastermind of the plot.
Twenty-five suspects had been accused in the Special Powers Act case. Nine received 20 years in prison and were fined 20,000 taka each, while four were acquitted. “They (convicts) will be executed either by hanging or by shooting with permission of the High Court,” Dhaka’s Speedy Trial Tribunal-2 judge Mamtaz Begum said. Only eight of the accused faced the trial in person while the rest were sentenced in absentia.
Under the Bangladesh law, the death sentences would require to be endorsed by the High Court following an automatic death reference hearing. The convicts are allowed to file an appeal as well. The judgment came a Dhaka court nearly ended trial of another major assassination attempt on Hasina while she was the opposition leader as the chief of the Awami League in 2004.
An influential group of the then ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of ex-premier Khaleda Zia is believed to have masterminded the plot engaging HuJI to execute it. Hasina narrowly escaped the attack that killed 23 people and injured hundreds.
BNP leader and Zia’s son Tarique Rahman is being tried in the case in absentia as a prime accused. “The verdict of the case is expected by the year end,” a court official familiar with the development said.