March 24 (AFP) – Fourteen jihadists were sentenced to death in Bangladesh on Tuesday for attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina more than two decades ago, a prosecutor said.
The 2000 bomb plot was one of several attempts on Hasina’s life in a wave of violence by Islamic extremists who were angry at her secular stance at the time.
Since then, a major crackdown against homegrown Islamist groups has seen more than 100 extremists killed in raids by police and more than 1,000 suspected militants arrested.
A fast-track court handed down death sentences to all 14 accused — five of them absconding — after they were found guilty of sedition and criminal conspiracy, prosecutor Abu Abdullah Bhuilyan told AFP.
They planted two bombs in the grounds of a college where Hasina was due to address a rally. The devices were discovered and defused.
“They are Islamist extremists belonging to the HuJI (Harkat ul Jihad al Islami) and JMB (Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh),” he said, referring to local extremist outfits blamed for a series of deadly bombings and grenade attacks in the 2010s.
Mufti Abdul Hannan, the Afghan-trained leader of Bangladesh chapter of HuJI, and two of his associates were executed in 2017 for an attempt to kill the British High Commissioner in Dhaka.
Hasina’s government also executed five top leaders of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, between 2013 and 2016 over war crimes during the country’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
Prosecutor Bhuiyan said two among the 14 sentenced to death are brothers of HuJI leader Hannan, and another his brother in-law.
Bangladesh sentences scores of people to death every year but only a handful of people are executed.
Bangladesh has hanged 23 people since 2013 while around 1,750 are on death row, according to a local rights group.