Security officials standing guard behind barbed wire barricade at a checkpoint in the streets close to the Holey Artisan Bakery, site of a terrorists attack, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 03 July 2016. EFE/EPA/FILE/STR

Bangladesh court commutes death penalties of 7 convicted for Dhaka cafe attack

Dhaka, Nov 27 (EFE).- The High Court in Bangladesh on Monday commuted the death sentence of seven militants to imprisonment until death, nearly four years after they were found guilty of plotting a deadly attack on a cafe in Dhaka that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners.

The High Court bench of Justice Shahidul Karim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman delivered the verdict upon hearing the appeals of the convicts, according to Deputy Attorney General Bashir Ahmed.

A special anti-terrorism tribunal in Dhaka had handed the death penalty to seven militants of homegrown Islamist outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in November 2019 for their role in planning the attack on the capital’s popular Holey Artisan Bakery cafe on Jul. 1, 2016.

“The High Court commuted the death sentences of all seven convicts. They will remain in jail until they die,” Ahmed told EFE.

During the infamous attack, five assailants armed with crude bombs, machetes, and pistols took several dozen hostages before troops stormed the cafe almost 12 hours later.

By then, they had already gunned down 22 diners, including nine Italians, seven Japanese, and one Indian.

The five gunmen were shot dead as commandos launched a rescue operation for the hostages, while two policemen were killed in the shootout.

The global militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government attributed it to the JMB.

Police found the involvement of 21 people in the attack but charged only eight JMB men on Nov. 26, 2018, as 13 others, including the five attackers, died in various operations.

The tribunal acquitted one accused in the trial, which began on Dec. 3, 2018.

Those who were handed death sentences were Jahangir Alam, Rashidul Islam, Sohel Mahfuz, Raklbul Islam Regan, Hadiur Rahman, Shariful Islam Khalid, and Mamunur Rashid Ripon.

The attack shook the country and forced the government to admit that the problem of Islamist extremism in Bangladesh – a traditionally moderate country – was becoming severe.

Between 2013 and 2016, Bangladesh witnessed a wave of Islamist attacks against minorities, foreigners, gay activists, intellectuals, and bloggers critical of religious fundamentalism. EFE