“Additional district and sessions judge Abdur Rahim Mridha handed down the death penalties in a crowded courtroom where 14 of the convicts appeared in person from jail while the rest four were fugitives and tried in absentia,” a local police official told PTI by phone.
A local journalist said the case was lodged against 26 people soon after the violence in a village school committee election in 1989 in northeastern Sunamganj but over the subsequent years eight of the accused died normal deaths while the other convicts were in their late 50s or 60s.
Tight security was enforced at the court complex while the grim-faced convicts were whisked away to jail by policemen as the judge pronounced the verdict, he said.
Senior lawyers in Dhaka said the death penalties of so many people in a single case was a rare incident but the verdict would require an automatic High Court review through a death reference hearing even if the convicts did not file appeals against the judgment.
The police official said all the convicts were earlier released following a previous trial in 2003 but the complainants challenged their acquittal in High Court which subsequently ordered a retrial.