DHAKA: A special tribunal in Bangladesh’s capital on Tuesday (Feb 16) sentenced five members of a banned militant group to death and a sixth man to life in prison for the 2015 killing of a prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger known for speaking out against religious fundamentalism.
Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born US citizen, was hacked to death in the streets of Dhaka while he was walking with his wife near an annual book fair. His wife, who is a blogger, was injured and now lives in the United States.
Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal Judge Majibur Rahman pronounced the verdicts in a packed courtroom in the presence of four defendants. Another two, including sacked military official Sayed Ziaul Haque Zia, remain at large.
The judge had earlier issued arrest warrants for them.
Tuesday’s verdict came in the same court that sentenced eight Islamic militants to death last week for the 2015 killing of a publisher of books on secularism and atheism.
For Roy’s case, the prosecution submitted close-circuit camera footage of the killing, video statements of the defendants and their confessional statements, and copies of phone text messages to the court as evidence.
In the judgment, Rahman said the prosecution was able to prove the charges against all six defendants without any reasonable doubt.
For Bangladesh, 2015 was a volatile year, as suspected members of radical groups in a series of attacks killed several atheists, bloggers and foreigners. A Dhaka bomb attack on Oct 24, 2015, aimed at minority Shiite Muslims killed a teenager and injured more than 100 people.
Authorities say the broke the network of militants in a massive crackdown following a 2016 attack on a cafe in Dhaka in which 22 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed, along with five assailants.
Since the 2016 attack, about 100 suspected members of domestic groups such as Ansar al Islam and Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh have been killed in raids across the country. Those suspects include some of the top commanders, authorities say.
The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the cafe assault and other attacks, but Bangladesh’s government said that domestic groups were behind them and insisted that the IS has no presence in the country.