Two others acquitted in the murders of the LGBT activist and his friend five years ago
In a landmark verdict relating to atrocious extremist activities in the country, six members of the banned militant group Ansar al-Islam have been sentenced to death for murdering LGBT activist Xulhaz Mannan and his associate Mahbub Rabby Tonoy in 2016.
Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal Judge Md Majibur Rahman handed down the verdict amid tight security in and around the courtroom on Tuesday.
All the convicts were also fined Tk50,000 each.
The six convicts are sacked army major Syed Md Ziaul Huq, Akram Hossain, Mozammel Hossain alias Saimon, Arafat Rahman, Sheikh Abdullah and Asadullah.
The court awarded capital punishment to all the six convicts under Section 6 (2) of Anti-terrorism Act-2009. The tribunal also ordered imprisonment of six additional months for each of the convicts under Section 8 of the same act.
The tribunal acquitted two accused – Sabbirul Haq Chowdhury and Mawlana Junayed Ahmed – of the charges as the allegations brought against them were not proven beyond doubt.
Major Zia, Akram, Sabbirul and Junaid were tried as fugitives while the four others were in the dock when the court pronounced the verdict.
Additional forces of law enforcing agencies were deployed in the Dhaka court area centring on the judgement in the sensational double murder case.
Earlier in the morning, the four arrested accused were produced before the court from Kashimpur High Security Prison during the delivery of the verdict in the case.
Sacked Army major Zia, Akram, Mozammel and Sheikh Abdullah have been also sentenced to death in another case filed over the murder of publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan in 2015.
What the court says
About the motive behind the double murder, the court in its observation mentioned that the accused in the case had a “common purpose” of creating panic to endanger public safety through the killing.
They killed Xulhaz Mannan and Khandaker Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy to stop them from exercising the right of free speech and engaging in independent activities, it said
“The accused had the same intention as there is no chance to see the role of any of them as small or big. As members of Ansar al-Islam, all of them played a key role in the assassination of Xulhaj-Tonoy. That is why they deserved similar punishment.”
The court said: “If the accused had survived, members of Ansar al-Islam who are not in court would be motivated to commit the same crime. Therefore, the accused cannot get any sympathy.”
The judge also observed that the punishment ensured justice. The relatives of the victims would feel peace while people would be discouraged from committing such heinous crimes in future.
A landmark verdict
Expressing satisfaction over the verdict, Public Prosecutor Md Golam Sharuar Khan Zakir said: “With this landmark verdict, justice has again been ensured in the country.”
Earlier, the tribunal on August 23 had set the date for the verdict as both prosecution and defence concluded their arguments in the case on that day.
A total of 24 prosecution witnesses testified before the tribunal in the case.
On July 28, 2019, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police submitted a charge sheet accusing the eight militants in the case.
According to the case, on April 25, 2016, Xulhaz was hacked to death inside his apartment at Kalabagan along with Tonoy.
The attack was one of a series of militant-linked assassinations of secular activists and religious minorities. Investigations found Islamist militants responsible for the killings of Xulhaz and Tonoy.
A patrolling policeman, who tried to stop the assailants, was also injured in the process. The assistant sub-inspector managed to snatch a bag containing two firearms, ammunition and a mobile phone from the assailants.
That same night Xulhaz’s brother filed a murder case against five to six unidentified suspects with Kalabagan Police Station.
A separate case was also initiated over the attack on the policeman and the confiscated firearms.