A Bangladeshi court has sentenced ten Islamist militants to death over a failed attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2000. The extremists belong to the banned Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami group.
Judge Mamtaj Begum announced the verdict on Sunday in a crowded courtroom in the capital Dhaka, sentencing ten Islamists to death by firing squad, one person to life in prison and three others to 14 years in jail.
The court sentenced nine people to 20 years in prison for supplying explosives to the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami militant group.
The group attempted to kill Sheikh Hasina in 2000 during her first term as prime minister by planting explosives near her public rally. The 76-kilogram bomb was detected and defused before it could explode.
"The bomb was planted in an attempt to kill Sheikh Hasina, high-ranking leaders of the Awami League party and dignitaries," prosecutor Shamsul Haq Badol told the AFP news agency.
Bangladeshi authorities accuse Mufti Abdul Hannan, the late leader of the jihadi group, of plotting the assassination of Hasina, who is now in her third term as leader of the South Asian country's secular government.
Hannan was hanged to death in April in a case related to a grenade attack on a British envoy in 2004. The diplomat survived the assault that killed three policemen and wounded many people.
Defense lawyer Faruque Ahmed said he would appeal the verdict.
Islamists versus Hasina
Badol said that banned Islamist group wanted to kill Hasina because "they said she was not a Muslim, and an agent of India, and Islam can be established [in Bangladesh] only by killing her."
Islamists in Bangladesh oppose PM Hasina for her secular politics. Her government has launched a crackdown on extremists and the authorities have hanged dozens of high-ranking Islamists in the past few years.
The South Asian country has witnessed a spike in attacks on secular activists and writers by religious fundamentalists.
Hannan, the alleged mastermind of the failed attack on Hasina, had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s before returning to Bangladesh. He was involved in a number of deadly attacks across the country.
shs/rc (AFP, dpa)