Four sentenced to death for the murder of a blogger in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A special court in eastern Bangladesh announced Wednesday that four men have been sentenced to death for the 2015 murder of a blogger and writer who promoted secularism in the Muslim-majority country.

The victim, Ananta Bijoy Das, 32, a banker by profession who wrote for the Free Mind platform, was among several bloggers and writers fatally attacked that year. He was chased into the eastern town of Sylhet by four men, who stabbed him to death in a street near his home and left his body near a pond.

“We are satisfied with the verdict,” Somor Bijoy Shee Shakhor, Mr. Das’ brother-in-law, told The New York Times. “We cannot recover Ananta. The only thing we want is justice.

Just 10 weeks before Mr Das died in May 2015, Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American who was the moderator of Free Mind, was also killed by assailants armed with machetes as he left a book fair in Dhaka, the capital.

And five weeks after Mr. Roy’s death, another blogger, Oyasiqur Rahman, was killed by three men armed with machetes in Dhaka.

Later that year, Faisal Arefin Dipan, Mr. Roy’s publisher, was killed by a group of assailants in his office in Dhaka.

The killings have sent a chilling message to secular bloggers in Bangladesh, where a bitter cultural battle has raged over whether the country is or should be a Muslim state.

A militant group, Ansarullah Bangla Team claimed responsibility for the deaths of Mr. Das, Mr. Dipan and Mr. Roy. The group was banned in May 2015.

On February 10, 2021, a special anti-terrorism court in Dhaka sentenced eight people to death for killing Mr. Dipan.

Six days later, the court sentenced five more people to death and another to life imprisonment for Mr. Roy’s murder.

The verdict of the trial of those accused of Mr. Rahman’s murder has not yet been made public.

All those convicted of the murders of Mr. Das, Mr. Dipan and Mr. Roy were part of the Ansarullah Bangla team. According to the BBC, the court in Mr Das’ murder said his killers believed they were acting as part of a “jihad” to stop the writers from producing anything the group interpreted as contrary to Islamic beliefs.

Nurul Amin Biplob, judge at the Sylhet court, announced the punishment of the four culprits, Abul Khaer Rashid Ahmed, Abul Hossain, Faisal Ahmed and Harunur Rashid. Only Abul Khaer Rashid Ahmed is in detention; the other three are on the run.

The prosecutor, Muminur Rahman Titu, said: “Justice has been served for Ananta.

“The court ordered the police to arrest the escaped convicts,” he added. “We hope it will be done soon.”

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