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Bangladesh court sentences 8 from banned Islamist group to death for role in 2001 bombing

FILE - In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, Mufti Abdul Hannan, center, leader of banned radical group Harkatul Jihad al Islami, stands at a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The court on Monday, June 23 sentenced eight people, including the top leader of the banned Islamist group, to death for their roles in a bombing at a New Year's celebration concert 13 years ago. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad, File)

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FILE - In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, Mufti Abdul Hannan, center, leader of banned radical group Harkatul Jihad al Islami, stands at a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The court on Monday, June 23 sentenced eight people, including the top leader of the banned Islamist group, to death for their roles in a bombing at a New Year's celebration concert 13 years ago. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad, File)

DHAKA, Bangladesh - A court in Bangladesh's capital on Monday sentenced eight people, including a leader of a banned Islamist group, to death for their roles in a bombing at a New Year's celebration concert 13 years ago.

Judge Ruhul Amin told a packed court that six others had been sentenced to life in prison for the bombing that killed 10 people and injured dozens of others at a park in downtown Dhaka during the Bengali New Year celebration in 2001.

The leader of the banned group Harkatul Jihad, Mufti Abdul Hannan, is among those sentenced to death. A younger brother of a Cabinet member of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was also sentenced to death. Four of the accused were tried in absentia.

Ten of the convicts were present in the court when the sentences were announced, but they remained relatively calm.

Harkatul Jihad says that New Year celebrations, such as singing and dancing, are anti-Islamic.

Authorities say the group wants to establish strict Islamic law in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, a South Asian nation ruled by secular laws based on British common law.

The Bengali New Year is celebrated in April with colorful rallies, concerts and dance festivals. Thousands of people pour into the streets of Dhaka and other major cities to celebrate, while in rural Bangladesh traditional fairs take place.

Faruque Ahmed, a defence lawyer, said he would appeal the verdicts.

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