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Bangladesh: British Suspect Denied Bail in Café Attack Case

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2017-01-04
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Police officers escort British national Hasnat Karim (center) after his court appearance in Dhaka, Aug. 13, 2016.
Police officers escort British national Hasnat Karim (center) after his court appearance in Dhaka, Aug. 13, 2016.
AFP

For five months Bangladeshi authorities have held British national Hasnat Karim as a suspect in their investigation into a massacre by terrorists at a Dhaka café on July 1, but have yet to charge him, sources said.

On Wednesday a court in the Bangladeshi capital rejected Karim’s fourth attempt at being bailed out of jail since his arrest on Aug. 2, without stating why he should remain in custody.

“We moved Hasnat Karim’s bail petition as he has been languishing in the jail for long without charge …. But the court rejected our petition,” Barrister Moinul Hossain, the lawyer who pleaded in court on Karim’s behalf, told BenarNews afterward.

The Briton is one of only two suspects in custody in connection with an overnight siege that left 29 people dead, including 20 hostages, at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter.

“We hoped that he would get bail. We do not know whether we will get justice,” Karim’s wife, Sharmin, told BenarNews.

Since the attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, Bangladeshi police and security personnel have killed at least 32 suspected members of Neo-JMB, a militant faction blamed for the terrorist act. The slain suspects included Tamim Chowdhury, a Canadian citizen, who, authorities allege, was the main planner of the café attack.

The other man currently in custody in connection with the attack is Rakibul Hasan Regan, a suspected militant who was arrested during a raid in the Dhaka area on July 26.

Hasnat Karim was among patrons dining in the café on the night of July 1, when he and his family were celebrating a daughter’s birthday.

After being taken hostage and released, he was eventually arrested over allegations that he had behaved suspiciously and helped the five gunmen who carried out the attack, according to reports. Images of the attack, in which the gunmen used machetes to hack their victims to death, were allegedly taken on Karim’s phone and then disseminated via social media.

“He is innocent, a victim of circumstances,” Hossain said.

Law enforcement sources, meanwhile, told BenarNews that police hadn’t finished their investigation into Karim’s alleged complicity and could only formally charge him when it is complete.

“The matter is under investigation; he is accused of incitement,” said Farid Hossain, the court’s General Recording Officer.

Karim was one of two people inside the restaurant during the attack who were later taken into police custody on suspicion of abetting the hostage takers. The other man, Tahmid Hasib Khan, a student at the University of Toronto in Canada, was exonerated and freed on Oct. 5.

Neo-JMB is a faction of the banned militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen that embraces IS ideology.

Officials had been warning of a threat of terrorist attacks during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but said they foiled one such plot by arresting five suspected JMB members on Dec. 28.

The authorities, however, could not stop two suspected JMB members – a woman and a teenaged boy – from blowing themselves up when police surrounded the house where they were staying during a raid in Dhaka on Christmas Eve.

Jesmin Papri in Dhaka contributed to this report.

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