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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Death for 22 in Bangladesh murder
Ahsan Ullah Master
Master was one of the country's best-known trade union leaders
Twenty-two people have been sentenced to death in Bangladesh for murdering an opposition MP.

Ahsan Ullah Master of the Awami League and another man were gunned down at a political function near the capital, Dhaka, in May last year.

Lawyers say this is the highest number sentenced to death in a single case. Six others were given life sentences.

Most of those sentenced are from the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) or its ally, the Jatitya Party.

Of the 30 defendants, 15 of those convicted were sentenced in absentia. Two people were acquitted.

According to Bangladeshi law, any death sentence must be reviewed by the High Court.

Second ruling

Judge Shahed Noor Uddin told a packed courtroom in Dhaka: "I sentence 22 people to death by hanging as their direct involvement in the killing has been proved undoubtedly."

He said the killing was an act of "political vengeance".

Since losing power in 2001, the Awami League has complained that the ruling coalition is pursuing a policy of killing its leaders.

All the partners of the coalition have dismissed the allegations.

Mobs took to the streets of Tongi, 20km (12.5 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, after the killings on 7 May last year.

They fought police, set fire to a train at Tongi station and attacked BNP offices.

Police said a group of armed men had opened fire on Master when he went to a local school to attend a party function.

One witness, Mohammed Sohail, said: "The armed group... first opened fire on [Master] from behind the podium at the school ground. Later they came out in front of him and shot him at point blank range."

Master, one of the country's best-known trade union leaders, was taken to a military hospital in Dhaka where he died from his injuries.

Master's son, Zahid Ahsan Russel, later took his seat in parliament.

He said his family was satisfied with the verdict.

However Awami League leader, Sheikh Hasina, was disappointed that the ruling did not identify the people who had ordered the killing.

Another court ruling is awaited in the killing of Awami League member and former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria at a rally in January.

Ten people, including local BNP activists, have been charged with his murder.

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Country profile: Bangladesh
07 Mar 02 |  Country profiles

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