A Dhaka judge Tuesday sentenced six suspected militants to die for “premediated and cold-blooded murder” during a bank robbery that left eight people dead in April 2015.
Judge S.M. Kuddus Zaman of the Dhaka District and Session Court also sentenced a seventh defendant to life in prison and two others to three-year terms for their roles in the bloody robbery at the Kathgara branch of the Bangladesh Commerce Bank on the outskirts of Dhaka, lawyers said. The 11 suspects who were charged in the case included two men who were acquitted.
Defense attorney Faruq Ahmed told BenarNews that his clients planned to appeal the ruling.
“My clients are innocent,” Ahmed said, alleging that they had been forced to confess.
The judge nonetheless ruled that the bank robbers were members of two banned militant outfits, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), and they had planned the heist to raise money for their organizations’ terrorist-related activities.
The bank robbers killed the branch’s manager and seven others when they burst into the bank, setting off bombs as well as stabbing and shooting customers on April 21, 2015, news reports said.
Bangladeshi authorities have suspected JMB operatives of carrying out or plotting deadly attacks against religious minorities. Separately, authorities have blamed ABT for being behind a series of murders targeting secular writers, gay-rights activists and intellectuals since February 2013.
Judge Zaman ordered capital punishment for defendants Borhan Uddin, Saiful (alias Al-Amin), Mahfuzul Islam (alias Sumon and Jamil), Md Jasim Uddin, Mintu Prodhan and Palash (alias Sohel Rana), public prosecutor Khandker Abdul Mannan told reporters.
Ukil Hasan was sentenced to life in prison and fined 5,000 taka (U.S. $63.66), while co-defendants Abdul Baten and Shahjahan Jamadar each got three-year sentences and fines of 3,000 taka (U.S. $38.19).
“This incident is not only a robbery in broad daylight, [but] rather a premeditated and cold-blooded murder of eight civilian citizens,” Zaman ruled.
The judge ruled that, based on his observations of their facial expressions and the way they behaved during the trial, none of the defendants appeared to be repentant.
“The killing of eight innocent people in inhuman, cruel and crude ways warrants an urgent precedence ... That is why, I think it appropriate to hand them down exemplary punishment,” Zaman said.
Seven of the defendants were members of the JMB and the others were with ABT, prosecutor Mannan said.
“They committed the bank robbery to collect funds for militancy. Seven of them gave confessional statements. Except for Palash, all of the convicted persons are in the jail,” he said.
Abdul Malek, who witnessed the robbery, said he supported the judge’s decision to hand death sentences to six of the defendants.
“They are criminals. They entered the bank at broad daylight, killed people and left the scene. All of them should be hanged,” he told BenarNews.
According to a security analyst, the brazenness of the crime reflected the changing face of militancy in Bangladesh.
“This bank robbery is a new phenomenon in militant activities. The attack on the banks indicates that their fund supply is drying up,” retired Brig. Gen. Shahedul Anam Khan told BenarNews.