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Hefty sentences for deadly 2004 attack in Bangladesh

October 10, 2018

A court has sentenced opposition leader Tarique Rahman to life in prison and given the death penalty to 19 others. The attack left more than 20 dead and hundreds injured, including current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladesch Protest Tarique Rahman
Image: Imago/ZumaPress

Tarique Rahman, the acting head of the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by a court in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday.

The court found Rahman guilty of criminal conspiracy and multiple counts of murder over a 2004 grenade attack that injured the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and killed 24 people. Rahman's mother, Khaleda Zia, was prime minister at the time.

The attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka also left over 300 others injured. The target of the attack, then-opposition leader Hasina, escaped death but suffered hearing loss.

Some 19 people were given the death penalty, including former Interior Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar and former Deputy Minister of Education Abdus Salam Pintu. Eleven others were handed jail terms of varying lengths.

Read moreIs Bangladesh obsessed with its past?

Rahman fled the country for London in 2008. In 2016, the High Court in Bangladesh sentenced him to seven years in jail and fined him 200 million taka ($2.54 million, €2.3 million) on money laundering charges.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was the target of the 2004 attackImage: government's press department

Politically messy

"We thank God for the verdict," prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kazal told reporters. Chief prosecutor Syed Rezaur Rahman said the prosecution sought capital punishment for Rahman.

The prosecution claimed the attack had been orchestrated by a group of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, who it alleged collaborated with senior officials of the Interior Ministry, the police, intelligence and the prime minister's office.

Some 49 people faced trial over the 2004 attack.

BNP denies involvement

The BNP denies any link to the attack. It alleges the government charged Rahman for political gain.

Rahman's lawyer, Sanaullah Mia, said that the charges against his client had been politically motivated and that the timing of the verdict was aimed at keeping him out of elections expected for December.

jbh/kms (AFP)

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