Bangladesh begins formal trial in 2016 Dhaka cafe attack

Dhaka: An anti-terrorism tribunal in Bangladesh on Monday began the formal trial in the Holey Artisan cafe attack in Dhaka in 2016 that killed 22 people, including foreign nationals.

On July 23, the police had pressed charges against eight members of the jihadist group Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for their role in the attack, although formal charges were framed by the tribunal on November 26, which had also set December 3 for recording statements of witnesses, prosecutor Jahangir Alam told Efe news.

“On the first day, the complainant of the case, a sub-inspector of Gulshan police, gave his statement and defence lawyers interrogated him. The interrogation will continue tomorrow,” he said.

Among the eight accused, six are in jail and two remain on the run.

All the six accused had pleaded not guilty when Judge Mujibur Rahman had read out the charges against them on November 26, said the prosecutor.

On July 1, 2016, five armed men had laid siege to the Holey Artisan Bakery for 12 hours, taking dozens of hostages and killing 22, including nine Italians and seven Japanese nationals.

The Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack although the Bangladesh government had maintained the attack was masterminded by the JMB.

Between 2013 and 2016, Bangladesh had witnessed a wave of Islamist attacks against religious minorities, foreigners, gay activists, intellectuals and bloggers critical of fundamentalism.