Bangladesh attacks: Eight members of Huji sentenced to death

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Bangladeshi policeman produce Mufti Abdul Hannan, leader of banned radical group Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami, at a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Monday, 16 June, 2014Image source, AP
Image caption,
Huji leader Mufti Abdul Hannan was among those sentenced to death

A Bangladeshi court has sentenced eight members of a banned Islamist group to death for a bomb attack which killed 10 people in the capital Dhaka in 2001.

Mufti Abdul Hannan, leader of the Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami, was among those sentenced for the 14 April blasts at a concert to mark Bengali new year.

Four of the accused were tried in absentia for the twin blasts. Six others were jailed for life.

The trial follows a series of death sentences for Islamists in other cases.

Judge Ruhul Amin said the attack on the concert was "carried out to destabilise the country and create panic".

The Harkat ul-Jihad group considers activities such as singing and dancing un-Islamic.

"We're happy with the eight death sentences but not satisfied with the sentencing of the six people who were given life terms," prosecutor Abdullah Abu told reporters, adding that he would appeal. A lawyer for the defendants said he also planned to appeal.

The Bengali New Year traditionally sees thousands of people celebrating on the streets, and is the most important festival for ethnic Bengalis in Bangladesh.

The Muslim-majority nation saw mass protests last year when several senior Islamists were sentenced to death after being convicted for war crimes in the 1971 independence struggle.

Experts said the latest death sentences risk inflaming tensions.

Huji has been blamed for a number of attacks in recent years, including a 2004 blast which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, then opposition leader, survived. More than 20 others were killed and 150 wounded.

Mufti Abdul Hannan was already on death row for trying to assassinate former British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury in 2005. Mr Choudhury survived, but three others were killed.