Two other ministers, former heads of the intelligence agencies and police and a key aide of Zia were also facing death sentences in the case.
A special court in Dhaka Wednesday handed life sentence to the son of former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia and 19 others were given death penalty in the 2004 Awami League rally attack that killed 24 people and injured 500 others, including the then opposition leader and current PM Sheikh Hasina. Rahman was among 49 people tried over the 2004 grenade attack.
Judge Shahed Nuruddin delivered the verdicts - interrupted twice by power cuts - at the court in Dhaka, the capital, on 49 defendants facing multiple charges stemming from the grenade attack 14 years ago that killed two dozen people and wounded almost 300 more. While Hasina had sustained injuries, Bangladesh Awami League's women front chief and former president Zillur Rahman's wife Ivy Rahman was among the dead.
Nuruddin said Wednesday that the attack was meant to eliminate the Awami League leadership, including Hasina. "God knows everything. I was not behind it", he said.
Khaleda Zia has been sentenced to life, 19 others were given death sentence by court. Eighteen others were also sentenced to life imprisonment, and 11 received six months to two years in prison.
Armed guards stood outside the courtroom in the old part of Dhaka to quell potential protests, but the streets were calm. Babar was a minister in the government of Khaleda Zia from 2001 to 2006.
However, the government is dissatisfied with the sentence and will appeal to the Supreme Court, seeking the death penalty for Rahman, Kazal added.
Her party boycotted the 2014 election in which Hasina returned to power but is expected to contest the election due in December.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of Zia's party, termed the verdict politically motivated and said it was a "naked manifestation of political vengeance" by the ruling party.
Rahman's lawyer Sanaullah Mia said the charges against his client were politically motivated.