Bangladesh court sentences 19 people to death for 2004 grenade attack

Bangladesh court sentences 19 people to death for 2004 grenade attack 

Special police forces have been sent to the Awami League opposition headquarter in Dhaka, Aug. 22, 2004, following yesterday’s bomb attacks on a big opposition rally. EPA-EFE/Mufty Munir

Dhaka, Oct 10 (efe-epa)- A court in Bangladesh on Wednesday sentenced 19 people to death and 19 others to life in prison for their roles in a deadly 2004 grenade attack on a rally organised by the then-opposition party Awami League, which is now in power.

Twenty-four people were killed and 300 others were injured in the attack on the rally, which was attended by current prime minister Sheikh Hasina. She escaped with minor injuries.

Among those sentenced to life was Tarique Rahman, the son of the former prime minister and currently imprisoned opposition leader, Khaleda Zia. Tarique has been exiled in London since 2008.

Judge Shahed Nuruddin of the Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal delivered the verdict in a packed courtroom amid tight security measures across the country due to fears of violent reactions from supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

“The court (…) sentenced 19 people to death. Nineteen others accused, including Tarique Rahman, were given life terms,” prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajal told reporters outside courtroom. “The rest of the accused have been given jail sentences of different terms”, he added.

Defence lawyer Sanaullah Mia said Tarique had been punished “unjustifiably”, and said they would appeal the sentence.

Prosecutors had called for the death penalty for all those accused, including Tarique, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in a case related to an orphanage foundation in February.

Tarique was made the acting chairman of BNP when his mother Zia was sent to jail after a court sentenced her to five years in prison for misappropriating funds from that same trust.

Among the 19 people given death sentences on Wednesday were two former ministers of the BNP, which was in power when the attack took place.

The court ruling comes ahead of a national election in December, in which Hasina will be seeking a third consecutive term in office.