5 to hang for Saudi diplomat’s murder in Bangladesh

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DHAKA– A Bangladeshi court Sunday sentenced five people to death for the murder of a Saudi diplomat in the capital Dhaka in March this year, a senior police official said.

Khalaf al-Ali, 45, the head of Saudi citizen affairs at the embassy, was shot while taking a late-night walk near his home in the city’s Gulshan area. He was rushed to hospital where he died three hours later.

“The Speedy Trial Tribunal in Dhaka sentenced five people to death today (Sunday). Four of the convicts were present when the judge gave the verdict,” said deputy commissioner of police Anisur Rahman, adding that the fifth had evaded arrest and was sentenced in absentia.

Police had blamed the murder on a mugging incident gone wrong in Dhaka’s posh Gulshan district. They arrested four of the muggers in July and recovered the pistol they used to shoot Ali as well as a car.

The diplomat had been living alone in a rented apartment in Gulshan for several years.

Bangladesh authorities made sure the case was heard by the country’s fast-track court, which has sentenced hundreds of people to death for crimes mostly related to Islamic militancy.

Saudi officials were regularly briefed about progress on the case.

Saudi Arabia is a key ally of Bangladesh and a major donor, but ties have become strained in recent years after Riyadh tightened recruitment from the South Asian country.

More than two million Bangladeshis — a quarter of the impoverished nation’s large migrant population — work in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

There was outrage in Dhaka in October 2011 when eight Bangladeshis were beheaded in the Saudi capital after being convicted of robbery and murder.

Bangladesh carries out death sentences by hanging. But the convicts are allowed to appeal to higher courts and to seek clemency from the president.

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