- The Bangladeshi American was visiting his native country and was returning from a book fair in Dhaka with his wife when they were attacked.
Five members of an Islamist militant group were sentenced to death on Feb. 16 for killing a Bangladeshi American blogger six years ago. Another militant was awarded life sentence. Avijit Roy was visiting his native country when he was murdered “by machete-wielding assailants in February 2015,” for his often critical views on religious extremism, Reuters reported. Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, also a blogger, were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka on Feb. 26, 2015, when they were attacked.
Public Prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan told Reuters that the six men convicted belong to the al Qaeda-inspired domestic militant group AnsarUllah Bangla Team. Police say the group is responsible for the murders “of more than a dozen secular activists and bloggers,” Reuters reported. Noting that the court gave them “the highest punishment,” Khan told Reuters that “charges against them were proved beyond any doubt.”
The men were sentenced at the Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal in Dhaka.
However, Nazrul Islam, a defense lawyer for the six men, said they would appeal against the verdict in the higher court, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, Roy’s wife, Ahmed, wrote about the verdict in a blog. She also recalled the fateful day her husband was murdered in front of her eyes.
“We got a verdict today after six years of confusion and delay,” she wrote. “I am sorry for turning down media requests for interviews. Instead, I am posting this statement below to summarize the situation and pose questions that have gone unanswered.”
She continues: “In 2015 my late husband Avijit Roy — Avi — and I visited Bangladesh, our home country, for the annual book fair where two of Avi’s books were being published. We were attacked by Islamist terrorists. Avi died, I barely survived and then the killing spree continued for another year,” she says. According to news reports, Ahmed suffered head injuries and lost a finger.
“The main two culprits — Sayed Ziaul Haque, the top commander, and Akram, the top operative of the militant group that attacked us — have never been caught,” Ahmed wrote in the blog. “Last week (in the verdict following the murder of Avi’s publisher, Faisal Arefin Dipan, in 2015), we learned that Haque continued to mastermind the serial killings of other secular writers and publishers for eight months after Avi and I were attacked. And yet, Bangladeshi authorities failed to put him behind bars,” she wrote.
“This verdict is not a closure for me or our family, I never expected it to be,” she wrote. During the six years of investigation, Ahmed noted that “not one person investigating the case in Bangladesh reached out to me — though I am a direct witness and victim of the attack.”
Observing that “Bangladesh’s government has become more autocratic since we were attacked,” she wrote its about how “freedom of speech has been restricted further, secular writers, bloggers, activists were forced to leave the country during and after 2015, a harsher Digital Security Act has been enacted, bloggers, writers, publishers have been persecuted for their writings on a regular basis.” Roy’s assassination on Feb.26, 2015, was subsequently followed by the murders of several other bloggers, publishers, and freethinkers.
She continued: “Simply prosecuting a few foot soldiers — and ignoring the rise and roots of extremism — does not mean justice for Avi’s death, nor for the deaths of the ‘bloggers, publishers and homosexuals’ before and after him as part of the serial killing. That’s why this verdict will not bring peace to my family or theirs.”