Dhaka, Mar 23 (PTI) Fourteen Islamists from a banned militant outfit were on Tuesday sentenced to death by a Bangladeshi court here for plotting to kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during an election rally in 2000.
Judge Abu Zafar Md Kamruzzaman of Dhaka's Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 pronounced the verdict as nine of them were brought to the court from jail to face the trial in person. The rest five convicts are on the run. They were tried in absentia and defended by state-appointed lawyers.
The judge said that he believed that with exemplary punishments it is possible to stop the recurrence of such horrible and brutal incidents in the country.
'The verdict will be executed by a firing squad to set an example, unless the law barred it,' the judge said.
Otherwise, the convicts, all operatives of outlawed Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh (HuJI-B), could be hanged in line with the prevailing practice, following mandatory review of the death sentences by the High Court Division of the Supreme Court under the Bangladesh law, the judge said.
Under the law, the death sentences would require to be endorsed by the High Court following an automatic death reference hearing. The convicts are allowed to file an appeal as well.
For the five convicts who are at large, the judge ordered the verdict to be executed after their arrest or surrender.
HuJI-B's chief Mufti Abdul Hannan, who was found to be the mastermind of the plot, too was indicted in the case but his name was dropped from the trial as he was executed in 2017 in another case involving attempted assassination of the then Bangladeshi-origin British High Commissioner.
The court in its observation said: “The convicts planted the bomb to oust the democratic and legitimate government by killing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leaders and activists of Awami League. The anti-liberation forces are continuing their conspiracies since their defeat in the War of Liberation.” It also observed that they killed Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 and hatched conspiracies one after another to kill Sheikh Hasina since her return to the country.
“The tribunal believes that it is possible to stop the recurrence of such horrible and brutal incidents by giving exemplary punishments to the convicts,” it added.
The convicts had hatched the plot to kill Hasina by planting a high-powered 76 kilogramme bomb near a ground in her constituency in Kotalipara area in southwestern Gopalganj district where she was supposed to address an election rally in July 2000.
However, security agencies detected the device ahead of the rally at the spot where the premier's helicopter was set to land.
Days later, another device weighing 40 kilogrammes was detected from a nearby spot.
In 2017, 10 militants were sentenced to death and nine others jailed for 20 years each by a court in the case.
Hasina has in the past survived several assassination attempts with the first in 1975 when a military coup killed her Father and Bangladesh's founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members.
Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana survived the carnage as they were on a visit to Germany.
Hasina miraculously survived a grenade attack when she was addressing an anti-terrorism rally in 2004.
The attack claimed 24 lives and injured some 500 others. PTI AR RS AKJ