Dhaka: A fast track Dhaka court today handed down the death penalty to five Bangladeshis for murdering a Saudi embassy official seven months ago, sparking fears the incident could expose Bangladesh’s crucial ties with Riyadh to difficulties.
“The convicts will be hanged by the neck till their death,” read the verdict as Speedy Trial Tribunal judge Mohammad Motahar Hussain handed down the capital punishment at his crowded courtroom. While four of them were in jail one was on the run.
The judge said the punishment of the fugitive convict would be effective from the day of his arrest or surrender. Immediately after the verdict police whisked the convicts off to a prison van destined for the high-security Dhaka Central Jail where they will await the subsequent legal procedures to execute the verdict.
But under Bangladeshi law, the High Court must endorse the judgement after a “death reference hearing” reviewing and scrutinising the tribunal judgement on the Khalaf Al Ali murder case.
The Saudi ambassador in Dhaka, Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Busairi, a brother of the victim, witnessed the delivery of the judgement at the court at Old Dhaka.
A non-diplomatic official of the embassy, Al Ali, 45, was working at the consular section of the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka. He was shot dead on the night of March 6 night the autopsy and police reports said the assailants used a single bullet that pierced through his chest killing him in hours.
Bangladesh police in July said they had arrested four assailants but their subsequent investigation found the mysterious murder to be a simple incident of mugging.
Police said the four confessed to their involvement in the killing during the interrogation while “it appeared to be an unplanned murder and a case of simple mugging”.
They said a bullet was fired from a .22 bore pistol of one of the muggers during a brawl with the embassy officer when the gang stopped him to mug him near his Gulshan house on March 6.
The judgement came two months after the court indicted the five suspected murderers.
Saudi Arabia had earlier sent a fact-finding delegation to Bangladesh as no apparent headway was being made in the investigation for months but the Saudi envoy recently said his government was happy with the arrest of Al Ali’s suspected killers and Dhaka’s assurance of trying the killers in the quickest possible time.
Saudi Arabia is a top destination for migrant workers from Muslim-majority Bangladesh while the two countries enjoy good relations which, however, were tested last October when Saudi Arabia beheaded eight Bangladeshi workers who were found guilty of robbing and killing an Egyptian.