A court in Bangladesh on Monday convicted and sentenced 17 members of the banned group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for a series of bombings in Gazipur, near Dhaka, a decade ago.
The bombings on Aug. 17, 2005, were part of a countrywide campaign of serial bomb attacks by JMB operatives that killed 28 people and injured scores more.
The verdict, handed down by Judge Abdur Rahman Sardar, came three years after police submitted a charge-sheet at the Fast Trial Court of Dhaka against the accused.
Sardar also fined each of the defendants 10,000 taka (U.S. $128). Failure to pay could result in an addition year in prison for each of them.
‘Justice delayed, justice denied’
Of the 17 defendants, 11 were in the courtroom on Monday. The website bdnews24.com listed their names as Md. Rokonuddin Rokon, Md. Mamunur Rashid Mamun, Arifur Rahman Arif, Md. Nizam Uddin, ‘Asad’, Nurul Huda, Md. Mahbubul Alam, Jahirul Islam, Afzal Hossain, ‘Kawsar’ and Omar Faruk.
The remaining six convicts – ‘Russel’, Abdul Kafi, M.A. Siddiqui Bablu, Rana, ‘Masum’, and Raihan – are fugitives, the website reported.
Four other defendants – ‘Hasan’, Mahbubur Rahman, Durul Islam and Taibur Rahman – were acquitted because of lack of evidence. Three of these men had been incarcerated for the past 10 years.
“This is the perfect example of ‘justice delayed, justice denied’,” Faruk Ahmed, a lawyer for the accused, told BenarNews.
“How are the court and the law enforcers going to compensate the acquitted three, who already served 10 years?” he said.
JMB on the rise again?
Although Monday’s verdict came 10 years after the crimes took place, the authorities were able to put the alleged masterminds of the 2005 bombing campaign on trial within two years.
In 2007, seven top leaders, including JMB chief Sheikh Abdur Rahman and his deputy, Siddiqur Rahman, alias Bangla bhai, were hanged after being found guilty.
Their executions and a subsequent governmental crackdown on JMB threw the group into disarray. It was not until the past few weeks that JMB made headlines again.
Last week, Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Lutfor Rahman, an alleged adviser to the two late top JMB leaders.
A week before Rahman’s arrest, police nabbed eight suspected JMB members in a suburb of Dhaka, including its acting leader, Abu Talha Mohammad Fahim (also known as Pakhi).
According to Dhaka Metropolitan Police, the eight were planning to attack installations in and around Dhaka and assassinate a number of prominent people.
They also were conspiring to carry out a jail break to free JMB emir Maulana Sayedur Rahman and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) leader Mufti Jashimuddin Rahmani, police alleged.
ABT is suspected of killing three secular bloggers in Bangladesh in three separate attacks this year.
“The verdict, although late, is a clear reminder that Bangladesh is steadfast in its campaign against religious fundamentalism, especially at a time when the country is facing criticism for not doing enough to protect the bloggers,” Mohiuddin Ahmed, a former diplomat and columnist, told BenarNews.