Five members of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) have been sentenced to death for killing Japanese citizen Hoshi Kunio two years ago.
Rangpur Special Judge Naresh Chandra Sarker acquitted another accused on Tuesday, as the charges against him could not be proven beyond doubt, public prosecutor Abdul Malek said.
Kunio was gunned down in Rangpur on October 3, 2015, barely a week after the identical killing of an Italian man in the capital's Gulshan area.
The convicts are JMB's regional commander Masud Rana, military commander Eshak Ali, Liton Mia, Ahsan Ullah Ansari and Shakhawat Hossain. Begum Rokeya University student Ahsan Ullah Ansari Biplob is on the run.
Abu Sayeed, another accused in the case was found not guilty.
Islamic State claimed they killed Kunio, but police maintained that members of a new faction of banned militant outfit JMB were responsible.
Masud Rana was arrested on December 9, 2015 and confessed that he had shot Kunio during the attack. Eshak Ali also confessed.
Police pressed charges against eight JMB operatives on July 2 last year and prayed to the court to drop the names of eight people arrested earlier. The charges were accepted on August 7.
Two of the accused were killed in alleged gunfights with law enforcers. Nazrul Islam alias Bike Hassan was killed on August 2 last year while key planner Saddam Hossain alias Rahul alias Sabuj alias Chanchal alias Robi died during another gunfight in the Mohammadpur area on January 6.
The case was transferred from the District and Sessions Judge’s Court of Humayun Kabir to the Special Judge’s Court of Naresh Chandra Sarker in Rangpur on October 26 for a quicker trial.
The trial began with the indictment of the eight accused on November 15, 2016.
Until February 19, the court recorded the depositions of 55 prosecution witnesses and of another in favour of the accused, and set Tuesday for delivering the verdict.
Kunio first visited Bangladesh in 2011 for a week. He visited again for a week in 2013 before finally deciding to live in the country this year.
Since foreign citizens cannot remain in Bangladesh for more than three months at a stretch without a work permit, he left and re-entered the country to renew his visa status, having visited China and, most recently, India.
Local mosque’s muezzin Taijul Islam said that Kunio had taken the name Golam Kibria upon converting to Islam.
The IS group claimed that their supporters killed Kunio, a citizen of Japan, since his country had been one of the member nations of the "crusader coalition" carrying out operations against the terror outfit in Syria and Iraq.