May 18, 2024

Bangladesh HC upholds death penalty of 2 Islamists

TAP | Updated: April 2, 2017

Dhaka, Apr 02: The  Bangladesh High Court today upheld a trial court order, confirming the death penalty given to two Islamists for the 2013 murder of a secular blogger that had set off a chain of attacks on liberal writers in the Muslim- majority country. 
A two-member bench upheld the death sentences for the two members of the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), said court officials.
The court also gave different jail terms to six others in the case, 16 months after a fast-track tribunal handed down the death sentences to the two ABT members for hacking to death secular blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in February 2013. 
“The HC bench confirmed the tribunal verdict after the analogous hearing of (mandatory) death reference and appeal hearing by the convicts who faced the trial,” a spokesman of attorney general’s office said. 
Redwanul Azad Rana and Faisal Bin Nayem, who were given the death penalty, were students of the top North South University. 
The six given varied jail terms included ABT’s so-called ‘spiritual guru’ Mufti Jashim Uddin Rahmani, who was sentenced to five years of imprisonment after he was found guilty of provoking the students through his sermons to kill Haider. 
Rana, who is also the main suspect in the  murder of writer-blogger Avijit Roy, is absconding. 
The ABT, said to be ideologically inclined to al-Qaeda, is one of the two main militant outfits active in Bangladesh. The other is the Islamic State-affiliated Neo-Jamaatul Muha-hideen Bangladesh (neo-JMB), which carried out the July 1, 2016, attack on an upmarket cafe in Dhaka that killed 22 people. 
Haider, 35, an architect by profession, was killed near his house in Dhaka’s Mirpur area. He had started a movement demanding the highest punishment to the 1971 war criminals just days ahead of his murder. 
His was the first of at least five similar attacks on liberal writers in Bangladesh. 
In February 2015 Bangladesh-born American blogger and science writer Avijit Roy, 42, was killed in Dhaka. A month later blogger Washiqur Rahman, 27, was hacked to death near his home in Dhaka’s Tejgaon area. 
Other victims were Ananta Bijoy Das, 33, a banker and founder of the Science and Rationalist Council; Niloy Chakrabarti, 40, who wrote under the pen name ‘Niloy Neel’; and publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, 43, the publisher of a bestselling book by Avijit Roy. 
Since 2013, Bangla-desh has witnessed a spate of Islamist attacks on foreigners, liberals and members of religious minorities with the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda making competing claims. 
The government, however, has consistently dismissed their claims, saying the foreign terrorist groups have no presence in Bangladesh and the attacks were carried out by homegrown outfits. 
Bangladesh banned ABT in 2015 but its operatives regrouped under Ansar al-Islam, which too was outlawed last month, and one of its key organisers, a renegade army major, carries a bounty on his head and is being pursued by security agencies. 
Authorities believe sacked army major Syed Ziaul Haque is the mastermind of the attacks on the secular writers. 
In recent weeks, Bangladesh has carried out at least four security campaigns against homegrown militant outfits across the country, including in Sylhet where army commandos were called in to neutralise militants after a four-day operation. The more-than-a-week-long security campaigns in Sylhet, Comilla and Maulvibazaar resulted in at least 22 deaths. PTI