Dhaka: Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Tarique Rahman was sentenced to life imprisonment while 19 others including two former ministers were given death sentence by a Dhaka court here on Wednesday over the 2004 attack on current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The grenade attack on an Awami League rally on August 21, 2004 had targeted Hasina, who was the opposition leader at the time. She survived the attack with a partial hearing loss while 24 people were killed and 500 were injured.

The 50-year-old Rahman, son of exiled former Bangladesh premier Khaleda Zia, was tried in the case in absentia with the court declaring him a “fugitive”. He now lives in London where he is believed to have sought asylum though the British authorities have declined to reveal his immigration status.

Judge Shahed Nuruddin of Dhaka's fast track tribunal pronounced the judgment ordering Rahman to be sent to prison for life.

Former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar and former deputy minister of education Abdus Salam Pintu were among 19 people sentenced to death.

BNP acting chairman Rahman, two former ministers and former top police and intelligence officials of the then BNP-led four-party alliance government were among 49 accused in the two cases - murder and grenade blast.

The judge made 12-point observations on the background, motive and consequences of the attack.

Investigations found an influential quarter of the then BNP-led government, including Rahman, masterminded and sponsored the attackers - the operatives of militant Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HuJI).

Investigators said Hasina was the main target of the attack. Hasina was injured in the attack while party's women front chief and former president Zillur Rahman's wife Ivy Rahman were among the dead.

Zia, who is now serving a five-year imprisonment in a graft case, was not made an accused in the case.

(With inputs from agencies)