A speedy trial tribunal in Dhaka on Tuesday ordered the execution of 14 militants of banned Islamist outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad Bangladesh (Huji-B) by firing squad – for planting a 76-kilogramme bomb in Kotalipara Upazila of Gopalganj in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina 20 years ago.
Judge Abu Jafar Mohammad Kamruzzaman of Dhaka's Speedy Trial Tribunal 1 in the judgement said, "Capital punishment has been awarded subject to the approval by the High Court. It has been directed to execute each of the accused in a firing squad in public."
However, the court said the punishment can be executed by hanging if the sentence cannot be carried out by a firing squad.
The issue of the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the incidents of attempted murder of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came up in the observation of the verdict.
The court observed that conspirators have tried to assassinate Sheikh Hasina 20 times, in various ways, since 1981 when she returned to the country.
The court further observed that according to the statement given by Huji leader Mufti Abdul Hannan, the outfit at a meeting in July 2000 had decided to assassinate Sheikh Hasina to overthrow the legitimate government.
On 20 July that year, a 76-kilogramme bomb was planted near the helipad at Sheikh Hasina's rally in Kotalipara. It was the first attempt by Huji to assassinate her.
The second attempt took place in May 2001 in Khulna, the third in September 2001 in Sylhet and the fourth in August 2004 in Dhaka.
For this reason, the tribunal believes that it will be possible to prevent the recurrence of the mentioned and grievous incidents by giving exemplary punishment to the accused belonging to Huji and other militant outfits.
Nine convicts – present during the verdict – were sent to jail along with the warrants of punishment. The court also ordered the issuance of arrest warrants against the fugitive convicts.
The court said now the convicts can appeal against the verdict with the High Court within 30 days. Documents along with the verdict will be sent to the High Court immediately for approval of the sentence imposed under the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The death row convicts are: Azizul Haque alias Shahnewaz, Lokman, Yusuf alias Moshab Moral, Moshab Hasan alias Rashu, Sheikh Md Enamul Haque, Mofizur Rahman alias Mofiz, Mahmud Azhar alias Mamunur Rashid, Rasheduzzaman alias Shimul, Tareq, Wadud Sheikh alias Gazi Khan, Anisul Islam, Sarwar Hossain Mia, Maulana Amirul Islam alias Jennat Munshi, and Maulana Rafiqul Islam Khan.
Among the accused, Azizul, Lokman, Yusuf, Enamul and Moshab are on the run.
Speaking to journalists, Special Public Prosecutor Abu Abdullah Bhuiyan expressed his satisfaction.
"We are satisfied that the maximum punishment was handed down to all the accused. I hope this sentence will be upheld in the High Court as well," he added.
On 22 July, 2000, a powerful bomb was found on the premises of Sheikh Lutfar Rahman Government Adarsha College, in Kotalipara, while a stage was being prepared for a public meeting by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. A team of army personnel dug up the ground and recovered the bomb weighing 76 kilogrammes. The next day another bomb weighing 40 kilogrammes was recovered.
In this incident, the police filed three cases with Kotalipara Police Station for the attempted murder of Sheikh Hasina, on the charge of conspiracy for assassination and sedition and under the explosives control act.
The trial court in August 2017 sentenced 10 militants to death and 13 to various terms of imprisonment in the case of attempted murder and under the explosives control act. Following an appeal in the attempted murder case, the High Court upheld the death sentence of 10 militants on 17 February. The sentences of one convict sentenced to life imprisonment and two convicts sentenced to 14 years have also been upheld. Another convict sentenced to 14 years has been acquitted by the High Court.
On the other hand, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) filed a charge sheet with the court on 15 November, 2001 in the case of conspiracy to commit murder and treason. On 21 November, 2004, the court framed charges against the 14 accused. Of the 50 prosecution witnesses, 34 testified. The submission of arguments in the case ended on 11 March.