DHAKA, Oct 5, 2016 (AFP) – A Bangladeshi court Wednesday formally exonerated a student at a Canadian university of involvement in a deadly cafe siege, two months after he was arrested and charged over the carnage.
Security forces named Tahmid Hasib Khan as a suspect in the weeks following the siege at the upmarket Dhaka cafe in July when Islamist militants killed 22 mostly foreign hostages.
Khan’s family vehemently protested his innocence, saying he was in the cafe as a customer and was not connected to the five gunmen who hacked and shot to death the hostages in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
The court formally cleared the 22-year-old on Wednesday, three days after he was released on bail when police dropped the charges, Dhaka Metropolitan court public prosecutor Abdullah Abu said.
“He (Khan) was exempted as police had not found any evidence against him,” Abu told AFP.
“However, police today filed another case against Khan of non-cooperation with the investigators,” Abu added, although police were not going to seek his rearrest.
Khan, a University of Toronto student who was back in his homeland on leave, did not speak with reporters as he left court.
Khan and Hasnat Karim, a British national of Bangladeshi origin, were both inside the cafe when gunmen staged their raid on July 1, taking a group of mainly Western diners hostage.
But neither were seen in public after the end of the siege when commandos stormed the cafe.
Police had denied the men were in their custody before announcing on August 4 that they had been arrested.
Abu said on Wednesday that Karim, whose family has also denied his involvement, remained in jail.
Bangladesh’s national police chief has said the two had fallen under suspicion as a result of their “behaviour and actions” during the siege.
Reports in local media said Khan was seen holding a firearm and Karim strolling with the attackers on the roof.
The siege was by far the deadliest in a string of attacks claimed by Islamist groups which have blighted Bangladesh over the last three years.
The IS organisation claimed responsibility but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government said the attack was the work of a homegrown Islamist group.