Crime & Justice

Killers of celebrated Bangladeshi academic get death penalty 18 years later

Dhaka, Apr 13 (EFE).- A Bangladesh court on Wednesday sentenced to death four members of the banned Islamist group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for killing renowned poet and academic writer Humayun Azad in 2004.

The writer was brutally stabbed on Feb.27 by five members of the radical group while returning from a book fair, and succumbed to his injuries six months later in Germany.

One of the accused died in a shootout with Bangladeshi security forces in 2014, and the remaining four perpetrators were convicted by the court.

However, the whereabouts of two of them remain unknown.

Hence, Dhaka’s fourth additional metropolitan sessions judge court handed down the sentence in the presence of only two of the perpetrators, prosecutor Shaiful Islam Helal told EFE.

Judge Al Mamun also fined the convicts 50,000 taka ($600) each, he added.

“The court ordered police to arrest the fugitive convicts. The judge said that their verdict will be executed as soon as they are arrested,” said Helal.

Although six months passed between the attack and Azad’s death, the police, citing the autopsy report, stressed the stabbing incident in the Bangladeshi capital resulted in the loss of life of the writer, then on a research scholarship in Munich.

It was not until April 2012 that the police charged five JMB members for his murder.

The writer, who was also a professor of Bengali literature at Dhaka University, was stabbed on February 27, 2004, as he was returning to his home from a book fair near the campus.

He was found dead at his apartment in Germany’s Munich six months after the attack.

Police charged five JMB members in April 2012 for his killing. One of the accused was killed in a “gunfight” with the law enforcers in 2014, while two others remained fugitives.

Helal said the verdict was delayed as some of the witnesses were living in Germany.

The prosecutor said the delay was on account of several of the witnesses residing in Germany, and the Covid-19 pandemic as the courts were closed for extended periods of time.

“The trial was delayed as some of the witnesses were in Germany. Yet, we completed the process in 2018. We had to wait longer as the court remained closed for a long time due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he explained.

JMB carried out a series of attacks between 2004 and 2005 in Bangladesh, killing dozens of people.

Six of its senior members, including leader Shaikh Abdur Rahman, were executed in 2007.

JMB regrouped between 2013 and 2016 and was accused by the Bangladeshi government of being responsible for a wave of Islamist attacks on people from religious minorities, foreigners, LGBT activists, intellectuals and bloggers critical of fundamentalism.

Recently, another member of the group was sentenced to death and executed in a jail near the capital in 2021.

Although the authorities have blamed local extremist groups such as the JMB for the violence in the country, global Islamist terror organizations like the Islamic State and the al Qaeda branch in the Indian subcontinent, have also claimed several attacks. EFE

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