Five sentenced to death for murder of anti-Islam atheist blogger

Five Al Qaeda jihadists are sentenced to death for hacking American anti-Islam atheist blogger to death because he religious extremism ‘a virus’

  • Five Islamist extremists sentenced to death for murder of writer Avijit Roy
  • He was stabbed to death outside Bangladesh’s largest book fair in February 2015
  • Six people found guilty, with five sentenced to death and one to life in prison

Five Islamist extremists have been sentenced to death today over the brutal murder of a Bangladeshi-American blogger six years ago.

Avijit Roy, 42, a prolific blogger and the author of 10 books including the best-selling “Biswasher Virus” (“Virus of Faith”), was hacked to death outside Bangladesh’s largest book fair by machete-wielding extremists in February 2015.

The murder, part of a reign of terror by extremists at the time, enraged the Muslim-majority nation’s secular activists who staged days of protests.

The judge at Dhaka’s Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal found six people guilty, sentencing five to death and one to life in prison, prosecutor Golam Sarwar Zakir said.

The court heard that Ansar al-Islam, which is believed to be linked with Al Qaeda, carried out the attack on Roy. 

Five Islamist extremists have been sentenced to death today over the brutal murder of Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, 42, in 2015. Pictured: One of the men on trial is escorted into court earlier today

Roy was hacked to death outside Bangladesh’s largest book fair by machete-wielding extremists. Pictured: Wearing protective gear, one of the people on trial is escorted into the courthouse earlier today

Two of them were tried in absentia, including sacked army officer Syed Ziaul Haque who was accused of leading the group that carried out the attack — known as Ansarullah Bangla Team, or Ansar al Islam.

Roy was born in Bangladesh in 1972 and moved to the United States in 2006 from where he continued to criticise the government for the jailing of atheist bloggers.

A defence lawyer said they would appeal the verdict in a higher court.

Roy had been repeatedly threatened with death over his writings before he was killed, even preparing a final salvo against the forces that took his life, which was released in 2015 after his death.

Writing in the pages of the New York-based Center for Inquiry, Roy said: ‘For me, religious extremism is like a highly contagious virus’, comparing extremists like the Charlie Hebdo attackers, who endanger their own lives for religious principle, to animals being ruled by a disease.

He continued by saying: ‘Faith-based terrorisms are nothing but viruses – if allowed to spread, they will wreak havoc on society in epidemic proportions.’

One Muslim fanatic, Farabi Shafiur Rahman, had reportedly posted threats on Facebook in 2014 that Roy would be killed as soon as he returned to the country.

In his posthumous article, Roy mentioned Rahman’s threats explicitly, and said his latest book had ‘hit the cranial nerve of Islamic fundamentalists’ in the country of his birth. He later detailed how death threats had terrified an online bookstore into pulling his writings.

His article concluded that ‘the virus of faith is dangerously real.’

According to an autopsy report obtained by local site BDNews24, Roy was killed by three deep gashes, which cut through his skull to the brain.

According to an autopsy report, Roy was killed by three deep gashes, which cut through his skull to the brain – and doctors who examined his body said the attack had the hallmarks of professional killers

Doctors examining Roy’s body said the attack had the hallmarks of professional killers, who acted with ‘planning, skill and brutality’.

After Roy’s death in 2015, international condemnation mounted over the murder.

US State Department spokesman Jen Psaki addressed the killing in a briefing today. She said: ‘The United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal murder of Avijit Roy, which was horrific in its brutality and cowardice.

‘He was a journalist a humanist a husband and a friend and we extend our condolence. He was taken from us in a shocking act of violence.

‘This was not just an attack against a person, but a cowardly assault on the universal principles enshrined in Bangladesh’s constitution and the country’s proud tradition of free, intellectual and religious discourse’.

The murder of Avijit Roy sparked outrage among Bangladesh’s secular activists, who staged days of protests

Pictured: Memorials were placed down at the spot where Avijit Roy was murdered in 2015

Representatives of the European Union in Dhaka said: ‘The Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh condemns the brutal assault and killing of blogger Avijit Roy and wounding of his wife last night in Dhaka.

‘The EU reiterates its strong attachment to freedom of expression which constitutes an essential element of a democratic society and calls for a prompt investigation to bring perpetrators to justice.’

Meanwhile Robert Gibson, the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, said on Twitter he was: ‘Shocked by the savage murder of #AvijitRoy as I am by all the #violence that has taken place in #Bangladesh in recent months’.

The ruling comes less than a week after eight Islamist extremists were sentenced to death for the murder of a publisher who brought out books by secular writers, including two by Roy.

Following Roy’s death in 2015, students and social activists took to the streets in protest against the killing

Banners and signs were held in the air as people marched through the streets in 2015 against the killing of Avijit Roy

The attacks were part of a wave of violence between 2013 and 2016 targeting secular activists, bloggers and atheist writers at a time of heightened political tensions.

Several top Islamist political party leaders were hanged over the violence under the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The Bangladesh government has since set up two major anti-terrorism police units to crack down on Islamist extremists.

More than 100 suspects have been killed in anti-terror raids and hundreds detained. Around half a dozen Islamist militant outfits have been banned.

Bangladesh cricket star Shakib Al Hasan has become the latest target of radicals, and had to be given an armed bodyguard after he was threatened for attending a Hindu ceremony in India.

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