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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Bangladesh court sentences five to death for killing an American-Bangladeshi blogger

Bangladesh court pronounced death sentence for five members of an Islamist militant group on Tuesday for killing an American blogger of Bangladeshi origin critical of religious extremism six years ago, as per BBC report.

Avijit Roy, based in the US, was brutally attacked with machetes in February 2015 while returning home with his wife from a Dhaka book fair. His wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed suffered head injuries and lost a finger. As per the BBC report, the assault was carried out by a banned group, Ansar Al-Islam, which is believed to be linked with al-Qaeda.

The BBC also says:

“Two members of the group were tried in absentia, including former army major Syed Ziaul Haque, who is accused of leading the attackers. He was sentenced to be hanged for murdering Roy, as were four others: Abu Siddique Sohel, Mozammel Hossain, Arafat Rahman, and Akram Hossain, who along with Syed Ziaul Haque is still on the run. Shafiur Rahman Farabi was given life in jail, after being arrested in March 2015. In June 2016 police said they had shot dead the main suspect – a man they named as Sharif – in the killing of Roy in a gun battle near the capital.”

“Charges against them were proved beyond any doubt. The court gave them the highest punishment,” Public Prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan said after the verdict, amid tight security at the Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal in the Capital, Dhaka.

Rafida, Roy’s wife who was with him during that merciless attack, criticized the way the court investigated her husband’s case. “In six years, not one person investigating the case in Bangladesh reached out to me – though I am a direct witness and victim of the attack,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Simply prosecuting a few foot-soldiers – and ignoring the rise and roots of extremism – does not mean justice for Avi’s death.”

According to The New York Times report Nazrul Islam, a defense lawyer for the six men, said they would appeal against the sentences in the Higher Court. Muslim-majority Bangladesh saw a string of deadly attacks between 2013 and 2016 targeting bloggers, secular activists, and religious minorities, claimed by Islamic State or Al Qaeda aligned groups.

The most serious attack came in July 2016, when gunmen stormed a cafe in the diplomatic quarter of Dhaka and killed 22 people, most of them foreigners. The cafe siege prompted a major crackdown on suspected Islamist extremists. More than 100 suspects were killed in anti-terror raids and hundreds arrested.

Last week eight men – all said to be members of Ansar al-Islam, and including former major Syed Ziaul Haque – were sentenced to death for murdering publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan. He was found dead in his office in October 2015. He was apparently targeted because he had published books by secular writers, two of them by Avijit Roy, BBC reported.

Avijit Roy was a Bangladeshi-American blogger, published author, and prominent defender of the free-thought movement in Bangladesh. He founded a site named, “Mukto-Mona” in 2000. Mr. Roy told the Bangladesh Daily Star in February 2007 that the aim of Mukto-mona was to build a society which will not be “bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition or suffocating orthodoxy – but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality, and science”.

He was a wonderful man who through his website encouraged many free-thinking Bangladeshis to challenge conventional religious orthodoxy. “His death shows just how dangerous it is for anybody in the country to speak out without being targeted by the hardliners.” one of his friends said.

(Featured Image Source: BBC)


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