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Bangladeshi court sentences 14 Islamic militants to death




DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – A special court in the Bangladeshi capital on Tuesday sentenced 14 members of a radical Islamist group to death in a case over a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina two decades ago.

Prosecution lawyer Abu Abdullah Bhuiyan said prosecutors were pleased with the decision, but defense attorneys say they will appeal.

Prosecutors have said the defendants belong to the banned group Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, or HuJi. In 2000, a 76-kilogram (167-pound) bomb was found on the spot for a political rally in the central Gopalganj district, where Hasina was scheduled to address supporters the next day.

Special court judge Abu Zafar Mohammed Kamruzzaman ruled in the presence of the nine defendants. The rest remain fugitives.

Authorities say Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami seeks to impose a strict Islamic law on Muslim-majority Bangladesh, a South Asian nation ruled by secular laws based on common British law.

The fundamentalist group has been active in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan since the early 1990s. The group was formed in Bangladesh in 1992 by a group of former Bangladesh Afghan War veterans who fought against the Soviet Union.

Bangladesh banned Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami in 2005. The group claimed responsibility for a 2001 suicide attack that killed 10 people and injured dozens in a park in downtown Dhaka during Bengali New Year celebrations.

Intelligence officials say the group has weakened in recent years after many of its members, including a senior leader, were jailed or executed.

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