In a swift move, a Dhaka court has pronounced death penalty to 19 persons, including two former ministers and sentenced a top opposition leader to life imprisonment for their role in 2004 attack on opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, who holds PM office at present.
According to reports, Justice Shahed Nuruddin of special tribunal said, “They shall be hanged by their neck”. Life imprisonment is also awarded to Tarique Rahman, the exiled son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is already languishing inside a Dhaka jail after her conviction in a corruption case.
The special tribunal’s order comes when country is poised for general election scheduled to be held by the end of the year.
According to Dhaka based The Daily Star, former State Minister Lutfozzaman Babar, former Deputy Minister Abdus Salam Pintu and 17 others were sentenced to death while BNP leader Tarique Rahman and 19 others were awarded life term imprisonment for the grenade attack on Awami League rally on August 21, 2004. The deadly attack had left 24 dead and hundreds injured.
Meanwhile, former Inspector General of Police — Ashraful Huda and Shahudul Haque — were given a total of four years’ imprisonment and fined Taka 50,000.
A total of 24 Awami League leaders and activists, including Mohila Awami League president Ivy Rahman, were killed and more than 300 others were injured in the deadly attack. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was the opposition leader in parliament at that time, narrowly escaped the attack.
The grenade attack was carried out during the tenure of the then BNP-Jamaat-led coalition government which was considered to be aimed at assassinating Hasina. The attack was allegedly masterminded by some BNP leaders, the report said.
The erstwhile government had allegedly made efforts to bury the case and protect the people involved in the attack by derailing the investigation.
But fresh investigation into the cases found the involvement of the militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), influential leaders of the BNP and Jamaat, and a band of senior officials of the home ministry.
Earlier, wrapping up their arguments, the prosecution sought the highest punishment to all the accused, saying it has been able to prove all charges beyond reasonable doubt. However, defence counsels said the prosecution failed to produce evidence to prove the charges and sought acquittal of their clients.