Bangladesh court sentences 14 to death over 2004 arms smuggling

Islamist leader Motiur Rahman Nizami among those sentenced

A Bangladeshi court has sentenced to death 14 people including an Islamist party leader, a former security agency chief and a former deputy government minister for involvement in the country’s biggest ever arms smuggling case.

Police seized 10 truck-loads of weapons in a raid on a state-owned jetty in the southeastern port city of Chittagong in 2004.

The origin of the arms has never been established publicly but they were believed to have been bound for insurgents in India.

Paresh Barua, a leader of the United Liberation Front of Assam separatist group from northeast India was among those who got the death penalty.

Also sentenced to death were a leader of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami, Motiur Rahman Nizami, a former deputy interior minister, Lutfozzaman Babar, and a former director general of the National Security Intelligence, retired Major General Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury.

The sentences were handed down by Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal judge SM Mojibur Rahman who told the court in his verdict that it was one of the country's most sensational and important cases, state prosecutor Kamal Uddin told reporters.

Defence lawyer Kamrul Islam Sazzad vowed to appeal.

“The verdict is nothing but political harassment. Justice was not done to my clients,” he said.