Bangladesh upholds Islamist militant's death sentence

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh's top court has upheld the death sentence of an Islamist militant over fatal suicide blasts targeting secular activists 10 years ago, a prosecutor said Thursday (March 24)

Asaduzzaman Chowdhury, who is also known as Panir, was sentenced to death in 2008 for his role in the December 2005 bombings that killed eight people and injured 40 more.

"The decision means he can now be executed within months unless he is pardoned by the president or the verdict is again reviewed by the Supreme Court," deputy attorney general Sashanka Shekhar Sarker told AFP. Both outcomes are seen as unlikely.

A Dhaka court sentenced Chowdhury and two others from the banned Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to hang in February 2008 for the attack on the offices of two groups that organise secular music and drama performances.

The group was banned after a series of bombings across the country in 2005, but has recently regrouped and is blamed for a spate of attacks on foreigners and religious minorities in Bangladesh.

Its founder Shaikh Abdur Rahman and five of his key associates were hanged in March 2007 and hundreds of JMB men were hunted down by an elite security force and prosecuted.

Panir's lawyers have argued that his death sentence should be commuted because he was a minor when the blasts occurred.