DHAKA: A Bangladesh court handed death sentences to seven members of a militant group on Wednesday for their role in an attack on a cafe in 2016 that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, in the south Asian nation’s worst such incident.
“Charges against them were proved beyond any doubt. The court gave them the highest punishment,” public prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan told reporters after the verdict, amid tight security at the court in Dhaka.
One of the eight accused was acquitted, he added.
A defence lawyer said the convicted men would appeal the charges, which include training the attackers and supplying arms, explosives and funds.
Prosecutor says charges against accused were proved beyond doubt
After the ruling, they shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “We did nothing wrong” from the dock to a packed courtroom, witnesses said.
Two were seen wearing prayer caps bearing the insignia of the militant Islamic State group; authorities opened an investigation into how the caps reached them while they were in police custody.
The July 1 attack on the restaurant popular with foreigners in Dhaka’s diplomatic area shocked the nation of 160 million and unnerved businesses, including the vital garment exports sector, and foreign investors.
Five young militants, armed with guns, sharp weapons and grenades stormed the Holey Artisan cafe, took diners hostage and killed them over 12 hours. Nine Italians, seven Japanese, an American and an Indian were among the dead. The attackers were also killed in a rescue bid by army commandos.
Prosecutor Khan said the seven men convicted on Wednesday belong to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, a group that seeks to establish Sharia rule in Bangladesh.
“The ruling will set an example. It will give a message to militant groups that none of them will be spared,” Law Minister Anisul Huq said.
Under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has been cracking down on militant groups to preserve its image as a moderate Muslim nation. After the cafe siege, police raided suspected hideouts and killed dozens of militants believed to have helped mount the attack. Hundreds more were arrested.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019