A special anti-terrorism tribunal in Bangladesh sentenced seven members of a banned militant group to death Wednesday for their involvement in an attack on a Dhaka cafe that killed more than 20 people, mostly foreigners.
Judge Mojibur Rahman found the men from the Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh group guilty of various charges including planning the attack, making bombs and murder. An eighth defendant was acquitted.
Rahman announced the decision in front of a packed courtroom amid heavy security.
Five militants took hostages and opened fire on the Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, 2016. Twenty hostages were killed, including 17 from Japan, Italy and India.
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The five militants were killed by commandoes during a 12-hour standoff. Two security officials were killed.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected it, saying the domestic group was behind it that the international group has no presence in the country.
The attack in the Muslim-majority nation followed several years of smaller attacks targeting scores of individuals deemed by extremists to be enemies of Islam, including secularists, writers, religious minorities, foreigners and activists.
The full verdict was not immediately available Wednesday, but the judge said the men acted against the sovereignty of the country and its constitution in executing the plan for such a big attack in which foreigners had been targeted and killed.
The defendants, who have maintained their innocence, can appeal the verdict.
Investigators found 21 people, including the five gunmen killed at the scene, were involved in the attack. In addition to the eight men who went on trial, eight other suspects were killed in security raids after the attack.