Bangladesh sentences 19 to death for political rally attack

Bangladesh ex-PM Khaleda Zia’s son sentenced to life in 2004 grenade attack case

Lutfuzzaman Babar, one of two former Cabinet ministers among the 19 condemned to death, told reporters after the verdict that he was innocent.

Awami League leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the then Opposition leader, was among almost 500 people injured in the grenade attack on a rally of her party in August 2004. Almost 4,000 security personnel were deployed in Dhaka.

Prison vans are seen coming out of the court after the verdict in the August 21, 2004 grenade attack case in Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 10, 2018.

Nuruddin said the attack was meant to eliminate the Awami League's leadership, including Hasina. "God knows everything. I was not behind it", he said.

Rahman faced trial and was sentenced in absentia, as he lives in London.

Other accused in the case included two former ministers of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led four-party alliance government, several Islamist militants and senior intelligence and police officers, many of them are absconders. Eleven other defendants were given six months to two years in prison.

Armed guards stood outside the courtroom in the old part of the capital on Wednesday to quell any protests, but the streets were calm.

Rahman's conviction could help Hasina retain power in elections due in December.

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Zia is already languishing inside a Dhaka jail following her conviction in a corruption case, which came in advance of the country's general election scheduled to be held by the end of the year.

The BNP says the case was politically motivated and aimed at destroying the image of party leaders. Babar was a minister in the government of Khaleda Zia from 2001 to 2006.

The court has ordered 19 sentenced to death in 2004 Grenade Attack Case.

The government has denied the allegations.

Bangladeshi politics are deeply divided, with rivals Hasina and Zia, both of Bangladeshi political dynasties, alternately ruling the country since 1991, when democracy was restored.

Rahman's lawyer Sanaullah Mia said the charges against his client were politically motivated.

"We hoped that Tarique Rahman would get the death sentence", he said, adding the court observed that Rahman played a key role in the attack.

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