Dhaka, Nov 27 – Seven militants were sentenced to death on Wednesday for their roles in the Holey Artisan café attack, the deadliest terror attack in Bangladesh’s history that claimed the lives of 22 people, including 17 foreigners. Judge Mohammad Mujibur Rahman of Dhaka Anti-terrorism Special Tribunal handed down the verdict.
The convicts are Jahangir Hossain, Aslam Hossain Ryash, Hadisur Rahman, Rakibul Hasan Regan, Abdus Sabur Khan, Mamunur Rashid Ripon and Shariful Islam Khaled.
They were also fined Tk 50,000 each.
One of the accused, Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, was acquitted as charges brought against him could not be proved.
Tight security was in place in and around the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court over the verdict in the Holey Artisan café attack case.
Members of law enforcement agencies took a position in the court area since morning. They allowed people to enter the court premises after a thorough check.
All the eight accused in the Holey Artisan café attack case were brought to the court amid tight security in the morning.
A prison van carrying them from Keraniganj Central Jail reached the court around 10 am.
What happened during the attack?
On July 1, 2016, armed terrorists barged into the upscale restaurant in the heart of the diplomatic quarter and unleashed an unprecedented carnage that shook the nation.
Twenty-two people — nine Italians, seven Japanese, an Indian, a Bangladeshi-born American and two Bangladeshis along with two police officers — were killed before commandoes stormed the café and neutralised the extremists.
Besides, two police officers were also killed during the attack.
Thirteen people, including three foreigners, were rescued while 20 bodies of the hostages were recovered from the restaurant after a successful operation led by the 1st Para-commando Battalion, an elite force in the Bangladesh Army, the following morning (July 2).
Five militants and one restaurant staff were killed and one suspected militant was arrested during the drive.
A case was filed with Gulshan Police Station in connection with the deadliest terror attack.
Later, the case was transferred to the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
Police pressed charges against eight people in the case on July 23, 2018. The tribunal framed charges against them on November 26.
Thirteen others, who were identified to be behind the attack, were killed during raids at various times.
Hasnat Karim, a private university teacher who was one of the hostages and later detained, was acquitted since there was no evidence of his complicity, police said.
On December 3 last year, the trial began with the deposition of witnesses.
On November 17 last, the tribunal set November 27 for delivering its verdict
After the pronouncement of the verdict, no sign of remorse was visible on the faces of the seven convicts, witnesses said.
After coming out of the courtroom, they started chanting slogans while one of the convicts was seen wearing a cap with a sign of international militant outfit Islamic States (IS).
Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government is happy with the verdict of Holey Artisan café attack. “We’re happy with this verdict,” he told reporters at the Secretariat.
The death reference will reach the High Court Division within seven days, he said. “We hope paper books will be prepared soon. The verdict will be executed on time,” he said.
Public prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan, speaking after the verdict, said the charges against the accused “were proved beyond any doubt”. “The court gave them the highest punishment,” the prosecutor told reporters.
A defence lawyer said the seven convicts will appeal against the death sentence.
Karimunnesa, the mother of deceased assistant police commissioner Rabiul Karim, expressed satisfaction over the verdict.
She broke down in tears at her village home in Manikganj after the court delivered the verdict.
“I was waiting for this day,” she told UNB. “I want swift execution of the verdict.”
She said the family became helpless after the death of her son. “I cordially thank the Prime Minister, ministers and police administration for standing by me in my difficult time,” she said.
The United States said the verdict gives some closure to the families of those who suffered from the brutal murders committed that day saying the trial represents a landmark case for Bangladesh.
“The United States is honoured to have assisted the government of Bangladesh throughout the investigation into the attack,” said the US Embassy in Dhaka in a statement.
The US said they remain committed to continuing to support Bangladesh in its fight against terrorism, especially in their shared efforts to improve the rule of law.
Officials say more than 100 Islamist extremists were killed and nearly 1,000 others arrested in a wave of operations following the attack.
Before that, there had been a string of deadly attacks on secular writers, bloggers and member of religious minorities.
The security forces were subjected to intense criticisms for failing to prevent the violence.