09 September 2021 :
A court in Bangladesh on 31 August 2021 sentenced six members of a banned group to death and acquitted two others in connection with the murder of two LGBTQ rights activists five years ago.
Xulhaz Mannan was the editor of Bangladesh’s first and only gay rights magazine, Roopban. Mahbub Rabby Tonoy was his friend and associate.
The two were hacked to death at their apartment in capital Dhaka on 25 April 2016, by the men belonging to Ansar al-Islam, a group banned by the Bangladesh government the previous year. Officials say the group is a local affiliate of the al-Qaeda group.
Amid tight security, Judge Md Majibur Rahman of the special anti-terrorism tribunal pronounced the verdict in the presence of four of the eight accused in a packed courtroom in Dhaka.
Those sentenced to death include former army officer Syed Ziaul Haque Zia, who officials say is the chief of the banned group.
The other five convicts are Akram Hossain, Md Mozammel Hossain alias Saimon, Md Sheikh Abdullah, Arafat Rahman, and Asadullah.
Zia and Akram are on the run and were tried as fugitives, while two other suspects – Sabbirul Hoque Chowdhury and Zunaid Ahmed – were acquitted.
The six, wielding guns and machetes, had forced their way into Mannan’s home in the Kalabagan area of central Dhaka and murdered him and Tonoy.
While pronouncing the verdict, Judge Rahman said the punishment will “set an example” that Bangladesh does not tolerate “militancy or terrorism in any form”.
Five of those convicted had already been sentenced to death in February for the 2015 murders of a blogger and a publisher who were hacked to death in separate incidents.
Defence lawyer Khairul Islam Liton told Al Jazeera they would appeal against the verdict in a higher court.
Mannan, 35, was a graduate of international relations from Dhaka University. He joined the US Embassy in Dhaka in 2007 and later joined the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
In 2014, he along with Tonoy set up the magazine to spread tolerance and raise awareness about LGBTQ rights.
Tonoy, 26, was also involved with a theatre group in the capital and used to teach drama to children at an organisation called the People’s Theatre.