The court ordered hanging them till death, apart from fining them Tk50,000 each
A Dhaka court on Wednesday delivered the verdict in the Holey Artisan Bakery attack case, sentencing seven New JMB militants to death and acquitting one of all charges.
The July 1, 2016, carnage saw 23 people killed, including 17 foreigners and two police officers, and ended when an army commando team stormed the cafe premises in Gulshan and shot the five attackers dead the next day.
The seven condemned to death are: Md Aslam Hossain alias Rashed alias Ryash, Jahangir Hossain alias Rajib Gandhi, Abdus Sabur Khan alias Sohel Mahfuz, Hadisur Rahman Sagor, Rakibul Islam Regan, Shariful Islam Khaled, and Mamunur Rashid Ripon.
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The court ordered hanging them till death, apart from fining them Tk50,000 each.
The verdict, pronounced by Judge Md Majibur Rahman of the Anti Terrorism Special Tribunal, drew shouts of "Allahu Akbar" from the convicts, who showed no remorse.
Of the seven, Jahangir, Aslam, Shariful, and Sabur, were among those who planned the attack, Hadisur and Ripon supplied the arms, and Regan was the religious trainer of the attackers.
Jahangir also recruited the five cafe attackers: Nibras Islam, Mir Sabeh Mubashir, Rohan Imtiaz, Khairul Islam Payel, and Shafiqul Islam Uzzal.
The eighth accused in the case, Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, was acquitted of all charges as the charges were not proved beyond doubt by the prosecution.
All eight were either top leaders or members of New JMB, a splinter faction of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, or JMB.
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The accused were brought to the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court premises around 10:15am, where security was beefed up ahead of the verdict in the case filed for the deadliest terror attack in Bangladesh’s history.
The state counsels said they were happy with the verdict and will appeal to a higher court if necessary, against Boro Mizan’s acquittal.
Defence lawyers said the witness testimonies and evidence were inconsistent, and they will definitely move to the higher courts challenging the verdict.
Inspector General of Police Dr Javed Patwary said the police was pleased with the sentencing, save for the acquittal of Boro Mizan. He said they will ask the prosecution to appeal against it.
Law Minister Anisul Huq also expressed his satisfaction with the verdict. “The swift trial and the verdict proved to the world that heinous crimes like these are judiciously tried.”
Families of the victims have welcomed the verdict, but also hoped it will be upheld by the higher courts and swiftly executed.
Turning the tables
The Holey Artisan Bakery attack prompted a massive crackdown on militancy, led by the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crimes (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) alongside Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and other law enforcement agencies, assisted by the army from time to time.
When asked if Boro Mizan’s acquittal indicated lack of effort in the case, CTTC chief Monirul Islam on day said the verdict was a message and has created a precedent.
He said: “The main five attackers were all killed. Our first anti militancy raid in Kallyanpur killed nine others, but managed to arrest one. We started our investigation on that one lead.
“Once we get the full verdict, we will be able to say if our investigation or the evidence was lacking. But overall, we are pleased with the verdict.”
Thirteen people, including three foreigners, were rescued from the Holey Artisan Bakery and O’ Kitchen restaurant after a successful operation of army commandos on the morning of July 2, 2016.
Three days after the attack, Sub-Inspector Ripon Kumar Das filed the case at Gulshan police station under the Anti Terrorism Act. Later, the case was transferred to the Detective Branch.
On July 23 last year, CTTC Inspector Humayun Kabir submitted the charge sheet against the eight. The tribunal indicted them on November 26.
Police investigation found the involvement of 21 militants in the attack, including the five killed in the cafe siege.
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Thirteen of them, including the attack’s mastermind, Tamim Ahmed Chowdhur, coordinator Nurul Islam Marzan, a top JMB operative, financier Sarwar Jahan, trainer Maj (retd) Jahidul Islam, software engineer Basharuzzaman Chocolate, top JMB operative Abu Raihan Tari, banker and financier Tanvir Kader, and grenade supplier Mizanur Rahman alias Chhoto Mizan, were all killed in various anti-militancy operations.
The trial began on December 3, 2018, and ended on November 17 this year.
Two of the rescued hostages, Hasnat Karim and Tahmid Khan, were initially detained and suspected of being involved in the attack. They were later released.