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Death and life sentences for killing of Bangladeshi professor

Machete murder of academic part of a rise in Islamic militancy in the mostly moderate Muslim-majority country

Death and life sentences for killing of Bangladeshi professor

A man holds a portrait of Professor A.F.M. Rezaul Karim, who was hacked to death in Rajshahi in Bangladesh on April 23, 2016. (Photo by M.D. Abdullah Iqbal/AFP)

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka
Bangladesh

May 9, 2018

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Two Islamic militants were sentenced to death and three others given life terms by a court in Bangladesh for the machete murder of a liberal academic.

Judge Shirin Kabita Akhter of the Fast-track Tribunal in Rajshahi district found the five men guilty on May 8 over the murder of Professor A.F.M. Rezaul Karim of Rajshahi University, a known advocate for liberalism and religious pluralism.

Karim was killed by machete as he made his way to the campus situated in the northwestern city of Rajshahi on April 23, 2016.

The two men sentenced to death — Shariful Islam and Maskawat Hasan — are reportedly members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahidin, one of two banned militant outfits blamed for a series of deadly attacks on liberals, intellectuals, religious minorities and foreigners since 2013. These have occurred amid a sharp rise in Islamic militancy in what is a largely moderate Muslim-majority country.

Islam, who remains at large and was sentenced in absentia, was a student in the English department where 58-year-old Karim taught. The three sentenced to life imprisonment were found guilty of aiding and abetting the two men found guilty of carrying out the killing.

Riasat Imtiaz, son of the slain academic, welcomed the verdict.

"The verdict is solace for us. We would be even happier if all the accused were given the death penalty. Some suspects remain in hiding, so we appeal to the government to arrest them and implement the verdict quickly," Imtiaz told ucanews.com.

Theophil Nokrek, secretary of the Catholic bishops' Justice and Peace Commission, said justice is welcomed but the Catholic Church does not support the death penalty.

"Taking away life is not a solution but we cannot reject what the court has done according to the law of the land. But I am doubtful whether this verdict can instill fear among those who follow a militant ideology," Nokrek told ucanews.com.

"Besides legal battles, we need to fight militants and their sympathizers with a strong counter ideology, one based on pluralism and harmony." 

Bangladesh has seen about 50 people including atheist bloggers, writers, publishers, liberal academics, gay activists, religious minorities and foreigners murdered by militants since 2013.

In response, the government has launched a crackdown on militants that has resulted in dozens of militants killed in shootouts and hundreds arrested and facing trials.

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