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Bangladesh Hands Death Sentence to Killers of Atheist Blogger

A court has handed the death sentence to two of six people convicted of killing Rajib Haider, following the first prosecution for any of the murders of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh.
A protest demanding the death penalty for all those convicted. Photo by Abir Abdullah/EPA

A fast-track court in Bangladesh sentenced two former students to death on Thursday for the 2013 murder of a blogger who criticized religious militancy, a killing which sparked international attention.

Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger, was hacked to death near his house in the capital, Dhaka, in February 2013, having led a popular movement demanding the death penalty for Islamist leaders accused of atrocities in Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence.


This year, a publisher and four more bloggers, including atheist American blogger Avijit Roy, have also been killed in Bangladesh amidst a rise in Islamist violence. Liberal activists, members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have also been targeted.

Following the first prosecution for any blogger killings, the court sentenced two former university students charged with Haider's murder to death, said state prosecutor Mahbubur Rahman, one of whose whereabouts were not known.

Related: Trapped Between Murder and Repression: Life as an Atheist Blogger in Bangladesh

Six other people were sentenced to jail terms, he said, including Jasim Uddin Rahmani, who police say is the head of the banned militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team, who was sentenced to five years in prison.

Haider's father, Mohammad Nazim Uddin, told the BBC he was unhappy that only two men were given the death sentence.

"I'm not happy with the verdict. I reject this verdict," he said. "Five of them confessed their involvement in the killing. But only two were given death sentence. How is it possible?"

The al Qaeda-inspired Ansarullah Bangla Team has not claimed responsibility for Haider's death, but the group has said it was behind subsequent attacks on the four bloggers and a publisher this year.

Defense prosecutor Faruk Ahmed, who represented the eight men sentenced on Thursday, said his clients would appeal to the Supreme Court.

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Related: Bangladesh Arrests Prime Suspect in American Blogger Murder