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Bangladeshi policemen sentenced to death for 1988 rally massacre

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Dhaka, Jan. 20, 2020 Five former policemen have been sentenced to death in Bangladesh for shooting dead 24 people in an anti-governmental rally more than three decades ago, officials said on Monday.

The rally was led by then-opposition leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in 1988.

A special court in the south-eastern city of Chattogram – formerly Chittagong – handed down the punishment to the officers for their involvement in the incident, known as the Chattogram massacre, prosecution lawyer Mejbah Uddin Chowdhury said.

At least 24 people were killed and more than 200 others injured as police suddenly fired on the procession, organised by Hasina’s Awami League party and which she was leading from a truck, on Jan. 24, 1988, in the port city.

Hasina, who survived the attack unhurt and is now the country’s prime minister, was touring Chattogram to mobilise support against then-military dictator Hussain Ershad.

A case was filed in connection with the massacre in 1992, two years after the fall of Ershad in the face of mass upheaval.

The investigators pressed charges against eight officers, of whom three died during the trial.

Three of the accused were present when judgment was pronounced, prosecutor Shobu Biswas said, adding that the other accused was on the run.

The court cross-examined 56 witnesses.

Hasina’s Awami League party says Hasina has survived at least 19 attempts on her life since her return from exile in 1981, after the assassination of Bangladesh’s founding President Mujibur Rahman, her father, in 1975.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim

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