DHAKA - A Bangladesh court charged Sunday the eldest son of a former premier over a 2004 grenade attack that killed at least 20 people and injured the current prime minister Sheikh Hasina. The tribunal threw out an appeal by Tareque Rahman, 46, who now lives in Britain, against pursuing the charges filed in connection with one of the country’s worst incidents of political violence in decades. Tareque Rahman, the son and heir-apparent of two-times ex-premier Khaleda Zia, would be tried in absentia, state prosecutor Syed Rezaur Rahman said. “The court charged him for criminal conspiracy to kill Hasina and her Awami League party leadership.

It set March 28 for the start of the trial,” Rahman, who is no relation to the accused, told AFP.

The charges carried the death penalty, Rahman said.

Defence lawyer Mohammad Sanaullah told AFP he would challenge the charges against Tareque Rahman in a higher court.

Hasina was addressing a rally in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, on August 21, 2004, when the grenades exploded, leaving at least 20 people dead including the wife of the current president.

The then leader of the opposition survived the attack but she was severely injured in one ear.

Four years later, Hasina stormed back to power after leading a secular coalition to a landslide victory in the December 2008 elections.

The heads of the two rival political dynasties, Hasina and Zia, are known as Bangladesh’s “Battling Begums” - Begum is a Muslim honorific - for their frequent rows and deadly street fights between their supporters.

Tareque Rahman, who is the deputy head of Zia’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is being treated in London for broken ribs he suffered when he was detained by an army-backed government in 2007-8, Sanaullah said.

The court also charged 51 others, including the deputy head of the largest Islamic party, a former home minister, ex-chiefs of police and security agencies, a Kashmiri and some Afghan-trained militants, Rahman said.

They will all stand trial jointly, Rahman said.