Bangladesh court upholds death sentences for coup

AP News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2009 12:30 AM

The Supreme Court rejected final appeals Thursday by five former soldiers sentenced to death in the 1975 killing of Bangladesh's independence leader in a military coup, a government attorney said.

A five-member jury dismissed the men's plea to commute the penalty in a packed courtroom in capital Dhaka, attorney Anisul Haq said.

"The nation has got justice," Haq told reporters. "We had to travel a long way to come to this."

The five convicted men were in Dhaka Central Jail when the jury dismissed their appeals.

They can now petition the country's president for clemency in their last bid for life.

In 1998, a Dhaka court sentenced the men to death for the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh's independence war against Pakistan in 1971. Until then, Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan.

The five petitioned the Supreme Court to commute their sentences.

Seven others who were also convicted are fugitives abroad, Haq said.

Police were put on high alert at the court and in jail areas, national police Chief Nur Mohammad said. Security was also being provided to lawyers and judges in the case.

Last month, attackers hurled a bomb at the car of a lawyer who is advising the government on the appeals. Fazle Noor Taposh, who is also a ruling party lawmaker, was unhurt, but 15 party members were injured.

Rahman became the country's first leader after independence. But he and most of his family and close aides were gunned down at his Dhaka residence on Aug. 15, 1975, during a military coup.

The government fears that the coup plotters may try to create disturbances after Thursday's ruling.

The coup leaders were given indemnity by subsequent military rulers, and were only put on trial when Rahman's daughter, Sheikh Hasina, became prime minister in 1996. Hasina and her younger sister, Rehana, survived the coup because they were touring Europe at the time.

Taposh's father, Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, also was slain in the 1975 coup.

Police have detained several relatives of convicted coup leaders as suspects in last month's attack on Taposh.