An Indian court on Friday sentenced 19 suspected members of the banned militant group JMB, including four Bangladeshi nationals, to serve six to 10 years in prison, after convicting them of involvement in a 2014 explosion that killed two people.
Improvised explosive devices were being manufactured five years ago at a rented two-story house in the Burdwan district of West Bengal state when the blast took place, police said.
The 19 convicts, including two women, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of conspiracy and waging war against the country, prosecutor Shyamal Ghosh told BenarNews.
“Many of the convicts are ranking leaders of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and they were in a conspiracy to overthrow the existing democratic government in Bangladesh through violent terrorist acts,” Ghosh said.
Chief Judge Siddhartha Kanjilal, who presided over the special court in Kolkata, ordered that the four Bangladeshis be deported to their home country after completing their 10-year prison sentence.
Defense lawyer Fazley Ahmed slammed prosecutors for making his clients look guilty before news photographers after they pleaded guilty on Wednesday, but expressed satisfaction with Friday’s verdict.
“The convicts were spontaneous to confess their crimes and we prayed for minimum punishment, as they want to return to normal life,” he said.
The trial of the remaining 12 accused, who were convicted in absentia, will continue, Ahmed said.
Two women and a young man, who claimed to be a student, were also sentenced to six years in prison, while the 12 others received sentences of 8 to 10 years.
The explosion was significant because it unraveled the militant activities of JMB along India’s border with Bangladesh, security analyst Bimal Shankar Nanda told BenarNews.
Police seized a large number of explosives, hand grenades and training videos during the investigation that followed, authorities said.
“The transnational militant groups … need to be uprooted to get relief of this menace and the government must take steps to that end,” he said.
In July 2016, five members of the Neo-JMB militant group, an offshoot of JMB, mounted a massacre at a Dhaka café, killing 29 people, including the militants. The incident prompted a fierce counter-terrorism crackdown in the South Asian nation.
In May this year, security analyst Sakhawat Hossain, a retired Bangladeshi brigadier general, told BenarNews that JMB had deployed operatives in India.
“The Indian authorities detected the presence of JMB in West Bengal following the Burdwan blast,” he said. “They have crossed the border.”