Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death penalty handed down to the chief of Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) militant group and two of his associates for a 2004 terror attack on the British envoy in the country that left three policemen dead, clearing the way for their execution.
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A four-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha delivered the verdict after dismissing the appeals moved on behalf of the convicts, including HuJI chief in Bangladesh, Mufti Abdul Hannan.
The appeals are “dismissed,” Sinha said in a brief ruling. The trio could now be hanged within months unless they seek a review of the verdict. But chances of overturning a death sentence in a review is extremely rare in Bangladesh.
Hannan and his two accomplices had filed an appeal against a High Court judgement in February this year that had validated a lower court verdict handing them down the capital punishment.
In 2004, the then Bangladesh-born British High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury narrowly escaped the grenade attack at an Islamic shrine in northeastern Sylhet. Three policemen were killed and 70 others were wounded in the attack.
On December 23, 2008, the Sylhet Divisional Speedy Trial Tribunal sentenced Hannan, Bipul and Ripon to death and two others to life imprisonment for the grenade attack.
Hannan and seven other operatives of his outfit were earlier sentenced to death by another court in Dhaka for a deadly 2001 bomb attack that killed 10 people during Bengali New Year celebrations.
21 of HuJI men, including Hannan and an ex-junior minister of previous Bangladesh National Party (BNP) government are now being tried for a grenade attack on Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina on August 21, 2004.
The then opposition leader Hasina narrowly escaped the attack that left 24 people dead. The United States, several years ago, designated HuJi as a foreign terrorist organisation and “specially designated global terrorist”
HuJI’s involvement is also suspected in several bomb blasts in India. HuJI was formed in 1992 by Bangladeshis who had fought in Afghanistan in the war against Soviet forces.
It was the first Islamist extremist outfit to have emerged in the Muslim majority nation. Hannan took over its leadership in the late 1990s. In October 2005, it was officially banned by the government of Bangladesh.