DHAKA • A Bangladesh court handed death sentences to seven members of an Islamist militant group yesterday for plotting an attack on a cafe in 2016 that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners.
"Charges against them were proved beyond any doubt. The court gave them the highest punishment," public prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan said after the verdict, amid tight security at the court in the capital Dhaka.
One of the eight accused was acquitted, he added.
A defence lawyer said the convicted men would appeal.
After the ruling, they shouted "Allahu Akbar" and "we did nothing wrong" from the dock to a packed courtroom, witnesses said. Two wore prayer caps with the insignia of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group.
The July 1, 2016, attack on the cafe popular with foreigners in Dhaka's diplomatic area shocked the nation of 160 million and unnerved businesses, including the vital garment exports sector.
Five young militants, armed with guns, grenades and knives, stormed the Holey Artisan cafe, took diners hostage and killed them over 12 hours.
Nine Italians, seven Japanese, an American and an Indian were among the dead.
The attackers were killed in a rescue bid by army commandos.
Mr Khan said the seven men convicted yesterday were involved in planning the attack. They belong to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, a group that seeks to establish syariah rule in the predominantly Muslim country.
Under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has been cracking down on militant groups to preserve its image as a moderate Muslim nation.
"We are happy that justice has been served," said Mr Shamsuzzaman Shams, whose policeman brother was killed when he tried to enter the cafe to foil the attackers.