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Police charge Islamists over atheist's murder

Eight are accused of hacking Bangladeshi blogger to death

Police charge Islamists over atheist's murder

Blogger Ahmed Haider Rajib during a popular Shahbagh uprising in Dhaka last year (photo by Ranadipam Basu) reporter, Dhaka

January 29, 2014

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Police in Bangladesh’s capital on Tuesday charged seven students of an elite private university and a Muslim cleric over the murder of an atheist blogger who criticised Islam and Islamic groups.

The students of Dhaka’s North South University are accused of hacking to death Ahmed Rajib Haider, 35, near his home in Dhaka in February last year. Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani, imam of a Dhaka mosque, is accused of instigating the murder.

Rajib was a prominent blogger popularly known by his Bengali pen name, Thaba Baba. Days before his murder he helped organize a popular secularist movement called Shahbagh Uprising that campaigned for the death penalty of Islamist leaders accused of war crimes during Bangladesh’s liberation war of 1971.

Rajib was found with his throat slit and machete wounds to the head near his home in Pallabi, northern Dhaka. Police said there was a possibility the attackers attempted to behead Rajib

The suspects are members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, a local Islamic militant group loosely connected with a local al-Qaeda network that aims to make Bangladesh a staunchly Islamic state, police said.

“It was a pre-planned murder,” Monirul Islam, a joint commissioner of Dhaka police, said Wednesday. “The students used to attend the mosque where Rahmani was the Imam and they killed Rajib on Rahmani’s instruction due to anger over his derogatory writings against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.”

Dr Nazimuddin, Rajib’s father, said the family is satisfied over the progress of the case.

“We can’t get our son back, but we can hope that justice will be delivered in due time,” he said on Tuesday.

It was the second attack on a Bangladeshi ‘atheist blogger’ after Asif Mohiuddin, a well-known self-styled ‘militant atheist’ blogger narrowly escaped death after being stabbed near his office in Dhaka in January last year by members of the same militant group.

Following Rajib’s death, fundamentalist Islamic groups launched massive nationwide protests demanding the execution of other atheist bloggers and the enactment of a blasphemy law, which led to violent clashes with government forces.

To stem the protests, the Awami League government arrested four atheist bloggers, including Mohiuddin, who face charges of violating country’s information and technology laws for their anti-religious writings.

Since last year, the government has shut down dozens of blogs and websites in order to appease Islamists’ anger and has ordered security agencies to monitor online and social media platforms to block the publishing of anti-religious materials.

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