Bangladesh court sentences 14 extremist militants to death

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A special court in Bangladesh’s capital on Tuesday sentenced 14 members of a banned radical group to death in a case over a conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina two decades ago.

Prosecution lawyer Abu Abdullah Bhuiyan said prosecutors were happy with the verdict, but defense lawyers say they will appeal.

Prosecutors have said the defendants belong to the banned group Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, or HuJi. In 2000, a bomb weighing 76 kg (167 pounds) was recovered from the venue for a political rally in the central Gopalganj district, where Hasina was scheduled to address supporters the following day.

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Judge Abu Zafar Mohammed Kamruzzaman of the special tribunal handed down the verdict in the presence of nine defendants. The rest remain fugitives.

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

The fundamentalist group has mostly been active in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan since the early 1990s. The group was established in Bangladesh in 1992 by a group of former Bangladeshi 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 at a park in downtown Dhaka during the Bengali New Year celebration.

Intelligence officials say the groups has been weakened in recent years after many of its members, including a top leader, were either jailed or executed.

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