Bangladeshi court jails 9 for journalist murder

DHAKA (AFP) - A Bangladeshi court has sentenced nine junior opposition politicians to life in prison for murdering a newspaper journalist who had published a series of reports on corruption, a prosecutor said Friday.

Gautam Das, 33, Faridpur bureau chief of Bengali daily Samakal, was strangled in his office after his reporting on corruption in the then ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Local media hailed the outcome as a landmark verdict because it was the first time a court had successfully tried a murder case of a journalist.

"He was murdered in November 2005 for publishing reports on corruption involving the then ruling party officials in the construction of a road in Faridpur," prosecutor Abu Abdullah Bhuiyan told AFP.

Mr Das's colleague M. Hasanuzzaman filed a murder case accusing 10 people, nine of them members of the BNP.

The judge of the Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal, Shahed Nuruddin, called Mr Das "brave, fearless, honest" and a crusader against social injustice and graft as he handed down life sentences to the nine accused, Mr Bhuiyan said.

The tenth accused died during the trial, he added.

The slain journalist's wife Dipali Das expressed anger that the murderers had avoided the death penalty.

"I am not happy with this verdict. They have money and they will get out of the jail after a few days," Mrs Das told reporters.

Samakal editor Golam Sarwar said the daily would appeal the sentence and ask for the death penalty.

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