Eight Bangladesh Islamists to hang for 2001 bombing
Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HUJI) leader Mufti Abdul Hannan (C) is flanked by police as he appears at a court in Dhaka, on June 16, 2014 - by Munir Uz Zaman
"The attack was carried out to destabilise the country and create panic," Judge Ruhul Amin said as he delivered the verdict in a crowded court in Dhaka's old city.
The head of the outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI) outfit, Mufti Abdul Hannan, was among the eight who were ordered hanged for targeting the celebrations in Dhaka's main park which they deemed un-Islamic.
The judge also sentenced six others to life in prison for setting off two bombs as thousands of revellers were celebrating the first day of Bengali New Year on April 14, 2001.
"It's a heinous attack and unprecedented in our history," prosecutor Abdullah Abu told reporters after the verdicts were announced.
"We're happy with the eight death sentenced, but not satisfied with the sentencing of six people who were given life terms. We'll appeal against the life sentences."
The HuJI chief, better known as Mufti Hannan, is already on death row having been convicted in 2008 for trying to assassinate the British high commissioner four years earlier in a grenade attack.
A lawyer for the defendants, Faruque Ahmed, told AFP that he planned to appeal the verdicts which he said were politically motivated and designed to "make people happy in certain quarters".
Mufti Hannan, who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan's civil war, is also accused of having been behind a plot to assassinate the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina when she was leader of the opposition in 2004.
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