A Bangladesh court on Wednesday issued death sentences to 20 university students over their involvement in the murder of a 21-year-old fellow student in 2019, according to local media reports.
Five other students were sentenced to life imprisonment, prosecutor Abdullah Abu told the AFP news agency.
The brutal murder of Abrar Fahad, who was beaten with a cricket bat and other objects for several hours after he put up a Facebook post criticizing the Bangladeshi government, had sparked protests across campuses in the country.
Students protest against Abrar Fahad’s murder, 2019
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina vowed the “highest punishment” for perpetrators of the crime.
Fahad’s family welcomes sentences
“I am happy with the verdict,” Fahad’s father, Barkat Ullah, told reporters outside the court premises after the sentences were delivered. “I hope the punishments will be served soon.”
Fahad’s family members meet Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 2019
Fahad was an undergraduate student at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, one of Bangladesh’s most prestigious universities. All students handed death sentences were aged between 20 and 22 years old and attended the same university as Fahad.
However, three defendants still remain at large. The rest of the perpetrators appeared in the courtroom on Wednesday. A lawyer for the defendants said they would appeal their sentence.
What happened to Abrar Fahad?
In October 2019, Fahad was seen walking into the university campus dormitory with other students after he put up his Facebook post criticizing the Bangladesh government for signing a water-sharing deal with India.
The students who killed him were members of the youth wing of Bangladesh’s ruling political party, the Awami League.
Student deaths spark massive protests in Bangladesh A massive outpouring of anger Bangladesh has witnessed massive student protests over the past several days, after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus in the capital Dhaka on July 29. The demonstrators, mostly students in their mid-teens, blame the government for failing to enforce traffic laws. On Thursday, some students even took matters into their own hands and began enforcing rules and regulations.
Student deaths spark massive protests in Bangladesh Student demands The protesters have put forward a set of demands for the government. They include strict enforcement of traffic laws, ensuring safe roads and eradicating corruption in the transport sector. Furthermore, they call for harsh punishments for traffic violators, including the death penalty for reckless drivers.
Student deaths spark massive protests in Bangladesh Tense situation On Thursday, Bangladesh’s education ministry shut down high schools and colleges in an effort to quell the unrest. The government also promised students their demands for reforms to road safety would be considered. Still, the anger hasn’t subdued. In Dhaka, students were seen attempting to bring traffic discipline by checking drivers’ registration papers and driving licenses.
Student deaths spark massive protests in Bangladesh ‘We Want Justice’ Authorities have pleaded with students to call off the protests that have nearly paralyzed Dhaka and spread beyond the capital. But they have had little success so far as the demonstrators refuse to give up their protest. Chanting “we want justice,” the protesters on Thursday even defied pouring rain to march in Dhaka.
Student deaths spark massive protests in Bangladesh Beatings and vandalism In some places, there have been clashes between the protesters and police. Videos circulated on social media show the police beating up students in an effort to clear the blockaded roads. Authorities say more than 300 vehicles have been vandalized since the protests started.
Student deaths spark massive protests in Bangladesh Security before digitization The students say ensuring safe roads in the country should be a higher priority for the Bangladeshi government than digitizing the nation. They argue that internet connectivity and digitization are of little use if the government is unable to ensure security on the country’s roads.
Student deaths spark massive protests in Bangladesh Empty highways Meanwhile, not everyone seems to be happy with the students’ action. Bangladesh’s transport workers on Thursday stopped operating bus services across the country and demanded security from the student protesters. They also staged a demonstration at the Gabtoli Bus Terminal in Dhaka. Author: Arafatul Islam (rr)
The Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student group, had been widely accused of using violence against students at the time.
Death sentences are common in Bangladesh, with hundreds of people on death row. All executions are by hanging, a legacy of the British colonial era.
rm/sms (AFP, dpa)