Bangladesh sentences 5 activists to death for murder of blogger | Voice of America
Five Islamist activists were sentenced to death Tuesday in Bangladesh for the murder of a prominent blogger who criticized religious extremism.
Special Anti-Terrorism Court judge Majibur Rahman sentenced members of the national militant group Ansar Ullah Bangla Team inspired by al-Qaida. He also sentenced a man to life in prison.
The activists were convicted of the murder of Avijit Roy, an American citizen born in Bangladesh. Roy was killed with an ax on the streets of Dhaka as he and his wife returned home from a book fair.
Roy’s wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed suffered a head injury and lost a finger. She now lives in the United States.
Police say the group is also responsible for the murder of more than a dozen bloggers and activists.
Two other defendants, including deposed army major Sayed Ziaul Haque Zia, were tried in absentia. Attorney General Golam Sarwar Khan said Sayed Ziaul Haque Zia is the leader of the group, which planned Roy’s murder.
Judge Rahman said the prosecution proved the charges against the six defendants beyond reasonable doubt.
The sentences were handed down by the same Dhaka court that sentenced eight Islamist activists to death last week for the 2015 murder of a publisher of books on secularism and atheism.
Defense lawyer Nazrul Islam said his clients would appeal the convictions.
A series of deadly attacks in this predominantly Muslim country took place between 2013 and 2016 against bloggers, religious minorities and secular activists. ISIS or al-Qaida-aligned groups have claimed responsibility.
The deadliest attack took place in July 2016, when gunmen killed 22 people after storming a cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic community.
A subsequent government crackdown led to the assassination of more than 100 suspected militants and the arrest of hundreds more.