The High Court has affirmed the death sentences for four militants of the outlawed Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, or JMB, for the murder of a Japanese national in Rangpur in 2015.
The panel of Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman and Justice SM Masud Hossain Dolon ruled on the death reference and convicts' appeal against their sentences on Wednesday.
But the court overturned the sentence for another convict, 34-year-old Ishaq Ali, who was also condemned to death by the trial court.
The four convicts facing capital punishment are Masud Rana, commander of the JMB's operations in Rangpur, Liton Mia, Shakhawat Hossain and Ahsan Ullah Ansari, who is absconding.
Reacting to the verdict, Deputy Attorney General Bashir Ahmed who represented the state at the hearing, said, “Five people were sentenced to death by the trial court. The death sentences for four of them have been upheld. One of the accused, Ishaq Ali, was acquitted.”
Referring to Ishaq's acquittal in the short order passed by the court, he said the state will look into the matter after receiving a copy of the full judgment.
In 2017, a Rangpur court handed down the death penalty to five people for actively participating in the killing of Kunio Hoshi, a sexagenarian Japanese man who had made Bangladesh his home for decades.
According to the case dossier, Kunio was shot dead by a group of masked JMB militants riding motorcycles as he was heading to his farm in a remote village of Rangpur.
The killing was similar to that of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella in Dhaka a week earlier, and the attacks on foreigners in Bangladesh made international headlines at the time.
Syria-based terrorist group Islamic State had reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government rebuffed it, saying the radical group had no presence in Bangladesh.
Police later pressed charges against six JMB operatives, one of whom is still on the run.
The death reference and appeals came before the High Court on Mar 7, 2017, and it began hearing the matter on Sept 4 this year.