Five Islamic militants were sentenced to death by a Bangladesh court on Tuesday (28 February) after they were found guilty of killing a Japanese citizen in the country in 2015.

All the convicted militants – Masud Rana (21), Ihsak Ali (25), Liton Mia (23), Shakhawat Hossain (32), and Ansar Ullah Ansari – were from the banned radical group Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh.

According to court officials, 65-year-old Kunio Hoshi was shot dead to destabilise the government and the country. However, one member of the fundamentalist group named Abu Sayeed (28) was acquitted by the court due to the lack of evidence, public prosecutor Rathish Chandra Bhawmik said.

But the defence lawyer was not happy with the verdict and said he would appeal in the apex court.

"We are not satisfied with this judgment and we will go to the Supreme Court after getting full copy of the verdicts," he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Japan's Hoshi was murdered on 3 October 2015 when he was walking on a street in the northern Bangladesh town of Kaunia in Rangpur. He was an official of the Netherlands-based NGO, ICCO Cooperation and had started a farm in Rangpur to produce grass for agricultural purposes.

He was shot thrice by two motorcycle-borne men in the chest, shoulder and hand, reports said.

Kunio Hoshi killing
Bangladeshi police officials stand guard at the site where Kunio Hoshi was shot to death by attackers in Rangpur on 3 October, 2015 STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

The killing of Hoshi came weeks after an Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella was shot thrice on 28 September 2015 while jogging at Gulshan diplomatic zone in the capital city of Dhaka.

In the recent past, the South Asian country has seen a rise in attacks by hardline Islamist groups. Since 2013, at least 48 people, including 20 in cafe attack, have been killed or seriously wounded by the spurt in Islamist violence.

The year 2015 alone saw several instances of secular and atheist bloggers being hacked to death by the hardliners. That year, four bloggers lost their lives and a number of individuals critical of Islam were also targeted.