Dhaka- A Bangladeshi court on Wednesday sentenced to death 20 students for beating to death a fellow second-year student inside a dormitory over a Facebook post criticising the government two years ago.
The students studied in the elite Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
They will be hanged by neck until they are dead, Judge Abu Zafar Mohammad Kamruzzaman of speedy trial Tribunal-1 of Dhaka pronounced while he simultaneously sentenced five other BUET students to life imprisonment.
Twenty-two of the 25 convicts were escorted to the dock under a heavy police guard ahead of the judge's appearance in the crowded courtroom.
The verdict said their brutality forced the court to hand them down the capital punishment to deter repetition of such incident in future.
The court found none of the total 25 accused innocent but three of them were tried in absentia as they were on the run since the murder of 21-year-old Abrar Fahad after October 6, 2019.
All the convicts belonged to the ruling Awami League's student front Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), which, however, had expelled them from the organisation while the BUET authorities cancelled their studentship as well soon after the incident.
They visibly killed Fahad in cold blood suspecting him to be an activist of Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islam after he criticised the ruling Awami League over the water sharing issue in common rivers with India.
The battered body was found in his university dormitory on the next morning while investigations found he was beaten to death with a cricket bat and other blunt objects for long six hours by the 25 fellow students.
"I am happy with the verdict," Fahad's father Barkat Ullah told reporters outside the court after the verdict while his mother expected the punishments to be served soon while the defendants' lawyers said they planned to challenge the verdict in the higher court.
Hundreds of students protested across Bangladesh soon after the CCTV footages went viral on the social media, showing how Fahad was being taken to a torture centre of the BUET dormitory on that night.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had responded to the protests, saying she had ordered her party's student wing to expel anyone involved in the extremely cruel killing.
I can feel the pain of the parents who lost their child, Hasina told a news conference at her official residence at that time as she vowed to bring to justice the perpetrators.
Soon after the incident, the BCL expelled the perpetrators and disowned their action with the organisation's general secretary Lekhak Bhattacharya saying Chhatra League did not give any instructions to beat any student and demanded strong punishment to the killers.
Fahad's killing also drew international condemnation with the United Nations issuing a statement for an independent investigation while the British High Commission in Bangladesh tweeted it was shocked and saddened by events at BUET .
The non-political student groups demanded a ban on party-based politics on the campuses, which Hasina left with the university authorities for decision.
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