A Bangladesh court on Wednesday sentenced Tarique Rahman, the acting chairman of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to life in jail, and 19 more to death, over a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2004, lawyers said.
The opposition is in disarray ahead of general elections set for December, with Rahman trying to run its campaign from exile in London after his mother and party leader, former premier Khaleda Zia, was jailed on corruption charges in February.
A special court gave the death penalty to 19 people, several of them BNP leaders, including former junior home minister Lutfuzzaman Babar, for an attack on a public rally in 2004, government lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kazal told reporters. Rahman and other BNP members were among the 19 sentenced to life terms.
"We are not happy with this judgment as we expected that all of them (BNP members) would get death sentences, especially Tarique," he said.
Minutes into Hasina's speech at the rally in 2004, assailants threw grenades that killed 24 people and wounded more than 500, most of the workers of her Awami League party, which was in the opposition at the time.
The court delivered the verdict "as per government wish," said BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
"We reject this verdict," he told a news briefing.
The party plans to challenge the court verdict, its lawyer, Sanaullah Mian, said. "The judgment was not given in a just way, so we will go for appeal and we believe all of them will be freed without any charges," he added.
(With inputs from agencies.)