A Dhaka court on Sunday sentenced 10 members of banned militant outfit Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh (Huji) to death over a plot to kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina 17 years ago in Gopalganj.
Judge Mamtaj Begum of Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal 2 delivered the verdict in the case filed under the Special Powers Act in a courtroom packed with lawyers, journalists and observers.
The death row convicts are Wasim Akhter alias Tarek, Md Rashed Driver alias Abul Kalam, Md Yusuf alias Moshab Morol, Sheikh Farid alias Maulana Shawkat Osman, Hafez Jahangir Alam Badar, Maulana Abu Bakar alias Hafez Salim Hawlader, Maulana Yahya, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman, Mufti Abdul Hye and Maulana Abdur Rouf.
Of them, Yusuf, Jahangir, Shafiqur and Hye are still on the run while the rest are behind bars.
The court said these convicts, following Section 34A of the Special Powers Act, can be executed either by hanging or by firing squad with approval from the High Court.
They were given the death penalty after the court found guilty under Section 15 (1) (A) (B) (C) and Section 25 (D) of the Special Powers Act 1974.
Another accused, Mehedi Hasan alias Abdul Wadud, was sent to prison for life. Three others - Md Anisul Islam, Md Mohibullah and Sarwar Hossain Miah – were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
All 14 were fined Tk10,000 each, in default of which they will have to serve an extra year in prison.
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Members of banned militant outfit Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh (Hujib) being taken to jail after Judge Mamtaj Begum of Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal 2 sentenced them to death in a case filed over a plot to kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina 17 years ago in Gopalganj Focus Bangla
The court, however, acquitted 10 others as the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them. They are Kamal Uddin, Arif Hasan, Munsi Ibrahim, Shah Newaz, Lokman, Sheikh Md Enamul Haq, Mizan, Maulana Sabbir, Mahmud Azhar, and Abul Hossain.
Huji chief Mufti Abdul Hannan was the prime accused in this case. He was hanged in April this year for killing three people in a grenade attack on then British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury in Sylhet in 2004.
Judge Mamtaj Begum on Sunday also sentenced nine of the accused to 20 years imprisonment and fined them Tk20,000 each in an explosives case.
They are Yusuf, Anisul, Mehedi, Wasim, Mohibullah, Azhar, Rashed, Newaz and Enamul.
Four others – Hasmat Ali, Abul, Ibrahim and Lokman – were acquitted in this case.
Public Prosecutor Shamsul Haque Badal said: “We are partly happy with the verdict. We’ll decide about challenging the acquittals after getting the verdicts’ copies.”
On August 10, the tribunal had fixed August 20 to deliver the verdicts in the cases after both the state and defence finished their arguments.
Defence counsel Faruque Ahmed said: “We have been denied justice. We will appeal to the High Court.”
According to case dockets, on July 20 of 2000, police found 76kgs of explosives in the Sheikh Lutfar Rahman Ideal Government College ground in Gopalganj’s Kotalipara, where Awami League chief Hasina, on her first term as prime minister, was scheduled to address a rally the next day.
After that, Kotalipara Police Station’s Sub-Inspector Noor Hossain had filed the assassination attempt case under the Special Powers Act. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) later pressed charges against 25 people including Mufti Hannan.
The second case under the Explosive Substances Act was filed by Kotalipara police Inspector Aminur Rahman after a 40kg bomb was found near the Kotalipara helipad on July 23.
CID had accused 14 Huji members in this case. Hannan’s name, however, was dropped from the charge sheet after he was hanged.
The cases were transferred to Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-2 from a Gopalganj court in September 2010 for expedited trial.
In the attempted murder case, 63 out of 83 prosecution witnesses testified and 39 in the explosives case.
Among all of the accused, eight are currently in jail, 15 fugitives and one is out on bail.