A Bangladeshi court on Tuesday sentenced five members of a militant Islamist group to death for killing a US blogger who criticized religious extremism six years ago.
Avijit Roy, a US citizen of Bangladeshi descent, was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in February 2015 when he and his wife were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka. His wife and blogger, Rafida Ahmed, suffered head injuries and lost a finger.
“The charges against them have been proven beyond doubt. The court gave them the highest sentence,” said prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan after the verdict amid tight security at the Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal in the capital Dhaka.
The court also imprisoned a man for life in the attack, Khan said.
He said the six men convicted on Tuesday belong to the al-Qaeda-inspired domestic militant group Ansar Ullah Bangla Team, which police say is behind the killings of more than a dozen secular activists and bloggers.
Syed Ziaul Haq, a sacked Army major believed to be the group’s leader and who oversaw the killing, and another member of the group were tried in absentia and received death sentences, Khan said.
Nazrul Islam, defense lawyer for the six men, said they would appeal the Supreme Court rulings.
In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, there were a number of deadly attacks against bloggers, secular activists and religious minorities alleged by the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda-led groups between 2013 and 2016.
The most serious attack occurred in July 2016 when armed men stormed a café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, killing 22 people, most of them foreigners.
After the café was sieged, more than 100 suspected militants were killed and hundreds more arrested when the government cracked down on Islamist groups to preserve its image as a moderate Muslim nation.
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