Updated: January 22, 2020 04:23 AM GMT
Bangladesh Communist Party (BCP) activists carry an injured man after a bomb blast at the venue of a BCP rally in Dhaka on Jan. 20, 2001. A Bangladesh court has sentenced 10 Islamist militants to death for the bombing. (Photo: AFP)
Two courts in Bangladesh have sentenced 15 people, including Islamic extremists and ex-policemen, to death in two separate cases involving attacks on political rallies decades ago.
A court in capital Dhaka on Jan. 20 sentenced to death 10 members of banned Islamic militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad (HUJI) for bombing a Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) rally on Jan. 20, 2001.
The blasts in the Paltan area of Dhaka left five people dead and more than 500 injured.
The bombing was one of a string of deadly attacks carried out by Islamic militant groups in Bangladesh starting that year. Many feared the extremists were out to establish a form of Islamic rule in Bangladesh like that enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a special court in the southeastern city of Chittagong sentenced to death five ex-policemen for firing on a rally organized by the then opposition leader — now the current prime minister — Sheikh Hasina on Jan. 24, 1988.
The shooting at the Laldighi grounds in Chittagong left 24 people dead and more than 200 injured, most of them supporters of Hasina’s Awami League party.
The violence occurred under the watch of the then military government of H.M. Ershad, who ruled the country for nine years until its 1990 ouster through a popular uprising.
State prosecutor Qazi Sanowar Ahmed called the Chittagong verdict “a triumph of justice” against a tide of long-running hostility.
“The court has ruled that it is unthinkable that police being an organized state force would shoot at an opposition rally indiscriminately. For years, there were attempts to derail the criminal justice system, but finally justice has won. I believe the judgment offers consolation to the victims and families of the dead and injured,” Ahmed told UCA News.
Analysists believe the CPB was targeted because Islamic militants considered communists kafirs (infidels) and nastiks (atheists) who had to be eliminated to ensure the establishment of an Islamic state in Bangladesh.
Delivering its verdict, the court observed that to preserve freedom and democracy in Bangladesh it was necessary to hand out exemplary punishment to the HUJI extremists.
The Church does not support the death penalty but backs rule of law and justice, said Father Albert T. Rozario, former convener of the Justice and Peace Commission of Dhaka Archdiocese, in response to the sentences.
“Often we seen justice is delayed, denied and a culture of impunity exists. When in power, governments take into consideration politically connected cases. If our legal justice system was quick and smooth, there would be no need for the death penalty,” Father Rozario, a Supreme Court lawyer, told UCA News.
“The verdicts send a strong message that no matter how powerful criminals are or how long it may take, there will be justice and punishment one day. I hope this message will be an example, so no one dares to commit such heinous crimes in the future.”
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