Bangladesh sentences eight students to death for murder

A bus burns on a street in Dhaka (October 2013) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bangladesh has been plagued by political violence in recent months between the two main political parties - the BNP and the Awami League

A court in Bangladesh has sentenced eight student activists of the governing Awami League party to death for the murder of a youth during an opposition strike last year.

A further 13 people from the student wing of the Awami League were sentenced to life in prison for murdering Biswajit Das.

Prosecutors said they mistook him for a supporter of the opposition.

The murder in broad daylight was captured on TV and caused outrage.

The pictures showed activists chasing Mr Das in the streets of Dhaka and hacking to death him with machetes.

Police were severely criticised for their slow response in arresting the suspects.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Tension has risen further over the government's decision to hold elections on 5 January

Only eight of the accused were present in the crowded court to hear judge ABM Nizamul Huq read out the verdict.

The rest, including two of those condemned to death, have not been caught and were tried in absentia.

The victim's elder brother Uttam Das was quoted by the AFP agency as saying that the family was happy with the verdict and wanted the executions to be speedily carried out.

"We have got the justice and now we want quick execution of these criminals," Mr Das said.

Correspondents say that the trial was a major test for the Awami League and came amid allegations that police tried to cover up the identities of the attackers.

The verdicts came as the country reels from street violence over the last few weeks ahead of polls scheduled for 5 January.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies say that they will boycott the vote - which they insist should only be held after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stepped aside to make way for a neutral caretaker government.

They have held a series of violent strikes and street protests to advance their demands.

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