Bangladesh: Death sentence for six Islamist militants over brutal murder of rights activists

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Six members of Ansar-al-Islam, a domestic militant group in Bangladesh, were sentenced to death by a court for the brutal murder of two rights activists in April 2016. The Police had indicted eight suspected militants in the case.

Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent gay rights campaigner and magazine editor and his friend and fellow activist Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, were attacked and killed by a group of men at Mannan’s residence in the capital city of Dhaka.

Judge Mojibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal ruled that the six defendants were responsible for the killings of the two men but acquitted the other two accused.

Four of the defendants were present amid tight security in the court on Tuesday (Aug. 31) while the other two remain at large. Defence lawyers vowed to appeal the ruling to the High Court.

Mannan worked for the US Agency for International Development and talked about the rights of homosexuals and other marginalised communities in Bangladesh, through his magazine Roopbaan, the country’s only magazine for the LGBT.

The killings occurred amid a wave of such crimes in Bangladesh where LGBT+ rights activists, atheists, moderates and people of different opinions from the country’s mainstream were being targeted.

Mannan’s killing later prompted outrage in the country and people gathered for candlelight vigils and protests to call for action against extremist groups carrying out such attacks.

The killings were claimed by various militant groups including Ansar-al-Islam and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS. The domestic groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Harkatul Jihad were also blamed for some attacks.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has claimed success in controlling the militancy after a nationwide crackdown on radical Islamists left dozens of militants dead and many others in jail. (Source: Independent)

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