Six members of Islamist militant group get death for murder
Six members of an Islamist militant group were sentenced to death on Tuesday by a court in Bangladesh for the brutal killing of two gay rights campaigners five years ago.
Xulhaz Mannan, 35, the editor of Bangladesh’s first magazine for gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people, and actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, 25, were hacked to death in Mannan’s apartment in the capital Dhaka in April 2016 in an attack claimed by Ansar Al Islam, the regional arm of al Qaida.
The killings were part of a series of attacks on atheist bloggers, academics and other minorities that shocked the South Asian nation of 170 million and led many to go into hiding or flee abroad.
Of the eight defendants in the case, six were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, public prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan said.
The Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal also convicted the six of belonging to a terrorist organisation, the al Qaida-inspired domestic militant organisation Ansar Ullah Bangla Team, Khan said, a group that police believe is responsible for the murders of more than a dozen secular activists and bloggers.
The men’s defence lawyer Nazrul Islam said they would appeal their sentences.
The tribunal acquitted two other defendants, who are on the run and were tried in absentia, Khan said. Of the six men sentenced to death, two are also on the run and were tried in absentia.
One of them is Syed Zia-ul Haq, a sacked army major believed to be the group leader and accused of masterminding the killings.