Dhaka – Five home-grown Islamist militants have been sentenced to death for killing a secularist writer in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka six years ago, officials said on Tuesday.
The judge of an anti-terrorism tribunal handed down the punishment to the members of the banned Ansar al-Islam militant outfit in a crowded courtroom for the killing of Avijit Roy, prosecution lawyer Abu Abdullah said after the verdict was pronounced.
The judge, Md Majibur Rahman, also awarded another militant to life in prison for inciting the murder of Roy, a Bangladesh-born US writer, through social media posts, he added.
Unidentified assailants hacked Roy to death and injured his wife as the couple returned from a book fair in Dhaka on February 26, 2015. The assailants followed the writer for nearly two years to execute the killing, investigators said.
Roy, who lived in the United States, had travelled to Dhaka along with his wife at that time to attend an unveiling ceremony of his new book at the fair.
Bangladesh witnessed a number of knife attacks on free thinkers, secularist writers and floggers following the attack on Roy creating a sense of insecurity across the country.
The prosecution lawyer said the charges brought against the defendants were proved beyond doubt and they were given the highest punishment in the case.
He said four defendants were present when the verdict was pronounced while two others are still on the run.
Roy was the founder of well-known Muktomona blog. He wrote on topics including science, society and philosophy in the Muslim-majority South Asian country that irked the radical Islamists.
His books include Samakamita (Homosexuality) and Obiswasher Darson (Philosophy of Atheists).
Bangladesh experienced a wave of attacks on secular writers, bloggers, academics, priests and people from minority faiths between early 2013 and 2016. The major attack was carried out at a restaurant in Dhaka on July 1, 2016 that killed at least 20 civilians, mostly foreign nationals, before the army commandos stormed the café and killed five armed militants.
The attacks were claimed either by Islamic State or al-Qaeda or their local affiliates, but the investigators maintained that home-grown militants were behind the attacks.
In response to those attacks, Bangladeshi security forces killed more than 100 suspected Islamists in anti-militant raids.