Bangladesh court sentences six Islamists to death for brutal murder of gay rights activist

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Relatives and friends at the funeral prayer of Bangladeshi activist Xulhaz Mannan in Dhaka in 2016 (AFP via Getty Images)
Relatives and friends at the funeral prayer of Bangladeshi activist Xulhaz Mannan in Dhaka in 2016 (AFP via Getty Images)

A court in Bangladesh has sentenced six Islamist militants to death in the brutal murder of two rights activists five years ago.

In April 2016, Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent gay rights campaigner and a magazine editor and his friend and fellow activist Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, were attacked by a group at Mannan’s residence in the capital city of Dhaka and murdered.

Judge Mojibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal ruled that the six defendants were responsible for the killings of the two men but acquitted two others. Police had indicted eight suspected militants in the case.

Four of the defendants were present amid tight security in the court Tuesday while the two others remain at large. Prosecutors identified all of them as members of Ansar-al-Islam, a domestic militant group.

Defence lawyers vowed to appeal the ruling to the High Court.

Mannan worked for the US Agency for International Development and talked about the rights of homosexuals and other marginalised communities in Bangladesh, through his magazine Roopbaan, the country’s only magazine for the LGBT.

The killings occurred amid a wave of such crimes in Bangladesh where LGBT+ rights activists, atheists, moderates and people of different opinions from the country’s mainstream were being targeted.

Mannan’s killing later propmpted outrage in the country and people gathered for candlelight vigils and protests to call for action against extremist groups carrying out such attacks.

The killings were claimed by various militant groups including Ansar-al-Islam and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS. The domestic groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Harkatul Jihad were also blamed for some attacks.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has claimed success in controlling the militancy after a nationwide crackdown on radical Islamists left dozens of militants dead and many others in jail.

Additional reporting by agencies

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