Five former police officials were sentenced to death by a Bangladesh court on Monday for opening fire on a motorcade of then Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina in 1988 that killed her 24 supporters during an anti-government rally. The court in Bangladesh's southeastern port city of Chattagram handed down the verdict on Monday after the completion of the defence's argument. As many as 53 witnesses testified in the court over the attack on the current Prime Minister Hasina's convoy.
“They will be hanged by the neck until they are dead,” pronounced Chattogram District and Sessions Judge Md Ismail Hossain, as four of the five convicts were present in the crowded courtroom while the fifth convict, a former police inspector, was tried in absentia as a fugitive.
On January 24, 1988, police opened fire on a procession which was escorting the motorcade of the then Awami League President Hasina while she was going to address a rally in the port city against the regime of then military dictator HM Ershad.
Hasina narrowly escaped the attack in which her 24 supporters were killed.
The attack was seen by Awami League leaders as an “attempt to assassinate” Hasina.
The prosecution said Hasina was visibly the target but she escaped the shooting as her supporters formed a human shield to protect her.
The shooting was dubbed as "Chattagram massacre" when police cremated the bodies at a Hindu crematorium regardless of the victims' religious identities, giving their families no chance to see them.
The Awami League filed the case in 1992 after Ershad was ousted in a massive pro-democracy mass uprising in 1990, but the proceedings were shelved for years as Hasina’s arch rival Khaleda Zia’s government was unwilling to proceed with the case.
Hasina took office when Zia's five-year term ended in 1996 and began the investigation into the killings.
On May 14, 1998, the police submitted a charge sheet against 47 people. Later, the court directed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) seeking further investigation of the case.
On October 14, 1999, the country's Criminal Investigations Department charged eight policemen with murder, but three accused including the then police chief of the port city Mirza Rakibul Huda died as the court proceedings were underway.