The sentencing was handed to the ruling Awami League's student wing members after killing a fellow student for criticising the government.

BUET student Abrar Fahad had criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for signing a water-sharing deal with India.
BUET student Abrar Fahad had criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for signing a water-sharing deal with India. (Reuters Archive)

Bangladesh has sentenced 20 university students to death for the brutal 2019 murder of a young man, Abrar Fahad, who criticised the government on social media.

"I am happy with the verdict," Fahad's father Barkat Ullah told reporters outside court after the verdict on Wedensday. "I hope the punishments will be served soon."

The battered body of Fahad, 21, was found in his university dormitory hours after he wrote a Facebook post slamming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for signing a water-sharing deal with India.

He was beaten with a cricket bat and other blunt objects for six hours by 25 fellow students who were members of the ruling Awami League's student wing, the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL).

All those handed death sentences on Wednesday were between 20 and 22 years old and attended the elite Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) alongside Fahad.

Prosecutor Abdullah Abu said that the remaining five perpetrators were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Three of the defendants are still at large while the rest were in the courtroom. A lawyer for the defendants said the sentence would be appealed.

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BCL's history of violence

Fahad’s Facebook post had gone viral hours before his death.

He had been seen, in leaked CCTV footage that went viral on social media, walking into a BUET dormitory with some BCL activists.

About six hours later, his body was carried out by the students and laid on the ground.

The BCL has earned notoriety in recent years after some of its members were accused of killing, violence and extortion.

In 2018, its members allegedly used violence to suppress a major anti-government student protest. Those protests were sparked by anger over road safety after a student was killed by a speeding bus.

Death sentences are common in Bangladesh with hundreds of people on death row. All executions are by hanging, a legacy of the British colonial era.

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Source: AFP