A special court in Dhaka Wednesday handed life sentence to the son of former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia and 19 others were given death penalty in the 2004 Awami League rally attack that killed 24 people and injured 500 others, including the then opposition leader and current PM Sheikh Hasina.
The opposition is in disarray ahead of general elections set for December, with Rahman trying to run its campaign from exile in London after his mother and party leader, former premier Khaleda Zia, was jailed on corruption charges in February.
Tarique Rahman, the fugitive son of Zia and presumed political heir, was the prime accused in the decade-old grenade attack case. While Hasina had sustained injuries, Bangladesh Awami League’s women front chief and former president Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman was among the dead.
The court, which completed the hearing on September 18, had reserved the judgment for October 10.
Ahead of the verdict, the government took cautionary security measures throughout Dhaka and 4,000 security personnel were deployed in the national capital to maintain law and order.
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.
However, the government is dissatisfied with the sentence and will appeal to the Supreme Court, seeking the death penalty for Rahman, government lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kazal said.
“We are not happy with this judgment as we expected that all of them (BNP members) would get death sentences, especially Tarique,” he said.
Minutes into Hasina’s speech at the rally in 2004, assailants threw grenades that killed 24 people and wounded more than 500, most of them workers of her Awami League party, which was in the opposition at the time.
The court delivered the verdict “as per government wish,” said BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
“We reject this verdict,” he told a news briefing.