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Babar, 17 others get death; Tarique awarded life for grenade attack

Babar, 17 others get death; Tarique awarded life for grenade attack

A Bangladeshi tribunal sentenced 19 people to death and the opposition's heir-apparent to life imprisonment Wednesday (Oct 10) for a deadly 2004 attack at a political rally of then-opposition leader and now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Over 14 years after the deadly attack that left 24 dead and 500 injured, Judge Shahed Nuruddin of the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 delivered the verdict in the two cases -- one for murder and another for grenade blast – around 11:30 a.m., amid heightened security.

A court in Bangladesh has sentenced 19 people to death for their role in a deadly grenade attack on a 2004 political rally in the capital Dhaka. 

Those to hang include a former minister and deputy minister, both leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party which was then in power. The party's current acting head, Tarique Rehman, was convicted to life in jail in absentia. 

The grenade attack left 24 people dead at the Bangladesh Awami League rally. Its leader Sheikh Hasina is now Prime Minister.

500 more were injured in the 21 August 2004 blast as Sheikh Hasina was about to finish a speech in front of thousands of supporters.

Lutfuzzaman Babar, one of two former Cabinet ministers among those condemned to death, told reporters after the verdict that he was innocent.

Former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia's elder son, Tarique Rahman, received a life sentence for each of two conspiracy charges stemming from the attack. He lives in London and was tried in absentia. 

A total of 24 Awami League leaders and activists, including Mohila Awami League president Ivy Rahman, were killed and more than 500 others were injured in the grisly attack on Bangabandhu Avenue. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was the opposition leader in parliament at that time, narrowly escaped the attack.

BNP's acting chairman Tarique Rahman, two former ministers including Babar and former top police and intelligence officials of the then BNP-led four-party alliance government were among 49 accused in the cases.

The grenade attack was carried out during the tenure of the then BNP-Jamaat-led government aiming at assassinating Sheikh Hasina. The attack, one of the most shocking political crimes in the country's history, was allegedly masterminded by some BNP leaders.

The erstwhile government had allegedly made efforts to bury the truth and protect the masterminds by derailing the investigation.

But fresh investigation into the cases found the involvement of the militant outfit Huji, influential leaders of the BNP, and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, and a band of then senior officials of the home ministry.