In a major development, a Bangladeshi court on Wednesday pronounced life term to former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Rahman and 18 others over the 2004 grenade attack in a Dhaka rally led-by Sheikh Hasina, then Opposition leader, sources said.
The convicts, along with the death sentences, were fined Taka one lakh each, it said.
According to reports, the attack on an Awami League rally on August 21, 2004 was targeted Hasina, the then Opposition leader. The brazen attack killed at least 24 people and injured 500 others, including Hasina with a partial hearing loss.
The Dhaka’s fast track Tribunal court headed by Judge Shahed Nuruddin pronounced judgment ordering Rahman to be sent to prison for life along with 18 others, said the sources.
The judge made 12-point observation on the background, motive and consequences of the attack, it said.
Former ministers Lutfozzaman Babar, Abdus Salam Pintu and former BNP lawmaker Qazi Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad were among the 19 people who were given capital punishment. Moreover, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia’s former political secretary Harris Chowdhury was also sentenced to life in connection with the case, according to sources.
Thirty one of the 49 convicts in the case were present in the court on Wednesday, while others were sentenced in absentia. Moreover, the verdict comes ahead of the election in December, they said.
Tarique Rahman, 50, who now lives in exile in London, was tried in absentia with the court declaring him a ‘fugitive’. According to sources, BNP chief’s son Rahman is believed to have sought asylum though the British authorities, however his immigration status was declined to reveal.
Rahman took over the leadership role and leads the Bangladeshi Opposition BNP from exile after his mother was sentenced to jailed in February for five years for corruption.
Soon after the verdict was announced, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters that they (Government) are taking steps to bring back the fugitive convicts.
According to reports, investigations found an influential quarter of the then BNP-led government, including Rahman, masterminded and sponsored the attackers—the operatives of militant Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HuJI).
(With inputs from agencies)