A Bangladesh court has convicted six members of the Islamist terrorist group Ansar Ullah Bangla inspired by Al-Queda for the brutal killing of US blogger Avijit Roy in 2015. Five have been sentenced to death while one has been handed life imprisonment.
Roy, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, had criticised Islamic extremism in his blog posts and was on the radar of Islamists in Bangladesh. He had received several death threats prior to his murder in February 2015.
On the fateful day, Avijit Roy was attacked by machete wielding terrorists while returning home with his wife from a Dhaka book fair. His wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed suffered head injuries and lost a finger.
As per the Al Jazeera report on the sentencing, Public Prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan said the six men convicted on Tuesday belong to the al-Qaeda-inspired armed group Ansar Ullah Bangla Team, which police say was behind the murders of many secular activists and bloggers.
Roy’s family had said that he received threats after publishing articles promoting secular views, science and social issues on his Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona (Free Mind). He defended atheism in a Facebook post few days before his murder, calling it a “rational concept to oppose any unscientific and irrational belief “.
Prominent writer Taslima Nasreen had to leave Bangladesh after she received death threats from hard-line Islamists in the mid-1990s for her works critical of hardline Islam.
When Avijit was murdered, she wrote on her blog: “Avijit Roy has been killed the way other free thinker writers were killed in Bangladesh. No free thinker is safe in Bangladesh.
“Islamic terrorists can do whatever they like. They can kill people with no qualms whatsoever”, she wrote.
Bangladesh saw a string of deadly attacks between 2013 and 2016 targeting bloggers, secular activists and religious minorities, claimed by armed groups linked to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group or al-Qaeda.