Bangladesh Court Indicts 8 in Dhaka Blogger Murder

By Associated Press 19 March 2015

DHAKA — A court in Bangladesh’s capital on Wednesday indicted a leader of a hard-line Islamist group and seven students in the hacking death of an atheist blogger two years ago.

The Metropolitan Sessions court issued the indictments after accepting the police investigation into the killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in front of his house in Dhaka’s Mirpur area.

The indictments mean a trial will begin for Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani, head of the Ansarullah Bangla Team, and six students at North South University who earlier confessed involvement in the killing. A seventh student said to have planned the attack is in hiding. All of the students were suspended by the university after their arrests.

Despite their earlier confessions, Rahmani and the six students pleaded not guilty on Wednesday. The judge set Apr. 21 for the start of the trial, and the seventh student will be tried in absentia.

Islamic extremism has made few inroads in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people, but there have been a series of similar attacks in recent years blamed on militants.

Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American atheist who wrote against Islamic radicalism, was hacked to death about two weeks ago on the campus of Dhaka University. Roy’s wife was also injured. A suspect has been arrested and investigators say Islamist radical groups were responsible for the attack.

In their investigation report, police said Rahmani incited the seven students to murder Haider in sermons in which he said all atheist bloggers should be killed to protect Islam.

Haider had criticized the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in his blog. He was also a leading campaigner for banning the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, which opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971. Police said the student who allegedly planned the attack is a member of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir. The party has denied involvement in the killing.