DHAKA: A Bangladesh court jailed 50 opposition activists on Thursday for up to 10 years for an attack on the current prime minister’s motorcade nearly two decades ago, a prosecutor said.
Among the defendants was a former member of parliament for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which was in power at the time of the attack.
In 2002, a motorcade accompanying Sheikh Hasina, who was then the opposition leader for Awami League, was attacked with rocks, batons and machetes, prosecutors said.
“Three men including the ex-MP were given 10 years in jail and the rest got various jail terms from four-and-a-half years,” prosecutor Shaheen Mirdha said, after the sentences were delivered by a district court in the southern city of Satkhira.
Twelve of the convicts are currently on the run. The prosecutor said the attack was one of many assassination attempts on Hasina, who was unhurt.
Several of her Awami League followers and journalists were injured in the incident.
Thursday’s verdict was handed down as another court sentenced the country’s acting main opposition leader Tarique Rahman, also of the BNP, to two years in prison for defaming Hasina’s father, a court official said.
BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed slammed both the cases, saying they were “fabricated, manipulated and politically motivated.”
The BNP, which has been out of power since 2006, has accused the government of detaining tens of thousands of its activists using trumped-up charges in the 12 years that Hasina has been in power.
“The verdicts are an attempt to divert the people’s attention from the government’s illegal and anti-democratic activities and corruption,” Ahmed told AFP.
More than 200 BNP activists staged a march in central Dhaka to protest against the verdicts on Thursday.
Rahman is said to have called Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founding leader and Hasina’s father, a “friend and collaborator” of Pakistan, court clerk Abul Kalam Azad said.
He is living in exile in London and was sentenced in absentia.
He has already been sentenced to life in prison over his role in a grenade attack on a political rally staged by Hasina in 2004 when she was the leader of the opposition.