A Bangladeshi court today sentenced the chief of the banned JMB group to over seven years in prison for heading the terror outfit linked to a series of attacks, including the one on a popular Dhaka cafe that killed an Indian woman along with 17 other foreigners.
Maulana Saidur Rahman, the former head of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, who was arrested exactly seven years ago on this day in 2010 has already spent seven years behind bars. He will now serve the remaining six months in jail for this case. Two of Rahman’s associates were also sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison.
“Saidur Rahman and two other JMB operatives were convicted for planning to commit subversive activities across the country and handed down all the three seven and half years of imprisonment,” a court official said.
Citing the anti-terror law, the judge sentenced the convicts to the strictest punishment applicable for such acts. Prosecutors accused him of misinterpreting Quran to wage a war against Bangladesh.
“The convicts, despite having knowledge of the Quran and Hadiths, invented their own analysis of the religion in the leaflets they distributed,” the court said.
Rahman has been spearheading a number of attacks against minorities, secular activists and foreigners, and also for recruiting men to carry out such attacks.
In the deadliest attack, 22 people, including 18 foreigners, were killed when militant stormed the upscale Holey Artisan Bakery and Kitchen restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone on July 1 last year. An 18-year-old Indian woman who was on a holiday in Dhaka was also killed.
The Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the cafe attack. But police believe that New-JMB, which is close to the ISIS, was involved in organising the attack. The three were arrested in a police raid on a house near Dhaka’s Donia Nur Mosque in 2010. Police found booklets of extremist propaganda and anti-government publications in their possession.
The two others who were convicted went into hiding after securing bail. Since 2013, Bangladesh has witnessed a number of Islamist attacks on foreigners, liberals and religious minority with the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda making competing claims.
The government, however, has consistently dismissed their claims, saying foreign terrorist groups have no presence in Bangladesh and the attacks were carried out by homegrown outfits. The country’s security forces have launched a crackdown against militants following the attack, killing 70 extremists in the past one year.
Last month, Mufty Abdul Hannan, the top leader of another outfit Harkatul Jihad (HuJI), was executed for masterminding a grenade attack against the then British ambassador to Bangladesh at a sufi shrine in 2004.