19 Sentenced To Death Over Bangladesh Grenade Attack

On October 10, a Bangladeshi court announced the sentence for those responsible for the deadly grenade attack carried out in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2004. The attack has been investigated multiple times over the years. The Associated Press reported there were 49 defendants. They reported that nineteen people were issued the death penalty and an opposition leader’s son, Tarique Rahman, was issued a life sentence for conspiracy charges. The BBC reported that the death penalty would be through hanging; a former minister and deputy minister, both Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leaders, were among those sentenced to death.

The grenade attack took place during a political rally held by the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina. According to BBC reports, there were about 20,000 people gathered outside the Awami League headquarters when the explosions began. Hasina barely escaped. According to Al Jazeera, several of her party leaders protected her as human shields. The Associated Press reported that the grenade attack wounded approximately 300 people and killed two dozen, and was the culmination of tension, distrust, and animosity between the Awami League and the former government. In 2005, the Economist regarded it as a symptom of pervasive political violence between both major parties.

Recent news coverage implies that little has changed. According to the BBC, the BNP suggested that the court case was politically motivated to destroy the party leaders’ images. According to Al Jazeera, one of the main prosecutors, Sayed Rezaur Rahman, said that “the grenade attack is considered one of the most heinous crimes in the country’s history. This is not a politically motivated case, rather a criminal one.” Al Jazeera also reported that Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, BNP’s secretary general, said that the verdict was “just another example of using judiciary for political revenge”. The BBC reported that Rahman’s mother, BNP leader Khaleda Zia, was one of Hasina’s rivals. She was sentenced to a five-year jail sentence for corruption in February. Al Jazeera reported that Rahman, the acting chairman of the BNP, was also jailed for ten years for the same case. They reported that he has been in exile since 2008.

Several believe that the courts have not done enough to bring justice to the victims. Ummey Razia Kajol, the Swechchhasebak League Assistant Women’s Affairs Secretary, told BD News, “I am not happy. I will never be satisfied until Tarique, Harris, and others sentenced to life in prison are hanged.” She also said that she hoped all 49 defendants would be sentenced to death. According to BD News, Kajol was present during the attacks and still has grenade splinters in her body. Al Jazeera also reported that Anisul Haque, the country’s Law Minister, suggested that the government will bring Rahman to a higher court to seek the death penalty for him as well.

This verdict remains significant as it highlights the political division within Bangladesh and features several issues that the country has repeatedly struggled with: fair court proceedings, the death penalty, and political violence. Judge Shahed Nuruddin highlighted some of these issues when announcing the verdict. According to BD News, he said that “killings for political gains are not the signs of democratic thinking…ordinary people don’t want this type of political practices in their midst.”