A Dhaka, Bangladesh, court sentenced 19 people to death Wednesday — including prominent opposition party members — for a grenade attack that killed two dozen people years ago.
Among those convicted and scheduled to hang are former Home Affairs Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar and former Deputy Education Minister Abdus Salam Pintu. Each is a member of the BNP party, which was in power when the attack occurred in 2004. Authorities said it was an assassination attempt against Prime Minister and Awami League Party leader Sheikh Hamina.
Tariquie Rahman, acting BNP Party chief and son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Rahman lives in exile in London, but Law Minister Anisul Haque said the government will also seek a death sentence for him in a higher court.
Haque said he’s taking diplomatic steps to have Rahman returned to Bangladesh.
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The BNP called the convictions “politically motivated” that are meant to damage the reputation of party leaders. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the party’s secretary general, called the verdict “just another example of using judiciary for political revenge.”
The BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami parties, part of a coalition government in 2004, were accused of stalling the investigation.
Hundreds of people were injured in the grenade attack, which was launched as Hasina neared the end of a speech in Dhaka.
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“The grenade attack is considered one of the most heinous crimes in the country’s history,” said prosecutor Sayed Rezaur Rahman. “This is not a politically motivated case, rather a criminal one.”
Security around the court building in Dhaka was strengthened Wednesday ahead of expected protests by BNP Party members.