The Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 on Tuesday sentenced 14 members of a banned extremist outfit to death in a case filed over an attempt to assassinate the then prime minister Sheikh Hasina by planting a bomb at a rally venue in Gopalganj’s Kotalipara in 2000.
Tribunal judge Abu Jafar Md Kamruzzaman delivered the verdict amid tight security in and around the court in the presence of nine of the convicts — Mofizur Rahman alias Mohibullah, Anisul Islam alias Anis, Mahmud Azhar, Rasheduzzaman alias Rashed Khan, Sarwar Hossain Mia, Tareque Hossain alias Marfat Ali, Abdul Wadud Molla, Amirul Islam and Rafiqul Islam.
The convicts remained calm during the pronouncement of the verdict and then left the courtroom for jail with most of them in smiling faces.
Five other convicts — Azizul Huq, Lokman, Yusuf alias Mosaheb Morol, Sheikh Mohammad Enamul Huq, Mosaheb alias Rasu — are absconding.
All the convicts are members of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh.
The court ordered that the convicts should be executed publicly in a firing squad, the tribunal’s special public prosecutor Abu Abdullah Bhuiyan told New Age quoting the verdict.
If the authorities have any problem in executing the death sentence in a firing squad, they should carry out the verdict by hanging the convicts, the tribunal said.
The court found that the convicts had colluded and planted bombs to kill Sheikh Hasina, Awami League leaders and activists to topple a democratic and elected and legal government and to create chaos and panic in the public mind as a part of a HuJI plan.
The court observed that anti-liberation elements had begun a conspiracy after they were defeated in the liberation war and ruined the country by killing the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975.
‘In a continuation of the conspiracy, the elements planned to kill Sheikh Hasina after she had returned to the country,’ the tribunal observed, adding that the conspirators should receive appropriate and exemplary punishment so that members of Harkat-ul-Jihad, Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh and other Islamist extremist outfits do not dare to commit such incidents in future.
Emerging from the tribunal after the verdict, special PP Abu Abdullah expressed his satisfaction with the verdict.
Defence lawyer Mujibur Rahman said that his clients were aggrieved and would challenge the verdict in a higher court.
On July 20, 2000, the police found two 76kg bombs on the Sheikh Lutfur Rahman Government Ideal College playground at Kotalipara in Gopalganj where Sheikh Hasina, in her first term as prime minister, was scheduled to address an election rally on July 22, 2000.
Another bomb, 40kg in weight, was also recovered by an army bomb squad from near the Kotalipara helipad on July 23.
ASP Abdul Kahhar Akand on November 15, 2001 submitted a charge sheet in the case accusing 17 people, including HuJI leader Mufti Abdul Hannan Munshi, a returnee from Afghanistan.
Mufti Hannan was, however, dropped from the case after he was executed on April 12, 2017 in another case over an assassination attempt against the British envoy in Bangladesh.
Two other persons were dropped from the charge sheet as per a recommendation from the home ministry in 2003.
The tribunal on November 21, 2004 indicted the convicts in the case.
During the trial, 34 prosecution witnesses were examined.
The police filed three cases over the planting of the bombs.
The tribunal on November 21, 2004 framed charges of committing sedition and hatching a conspiracy to oust the then legal government, create disorder in society and panic among the countrymen, the special PP said.
In 2017, the Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-2 sentenced 10 suspected extremists to death by firing and seven to imprisonment for varying terms in two cases filed over the incident — one under the Special Powers Act and the other under the Explosive Substances Act.
Three of the 2017 convicts — Mofizur, Md Yusuf and Abdul Wadud Molla — were also sentenced to death on Tuesday.
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