A US court has convicted a New York man of killing Bangladeshi-American Imam Maulana Akonjee and his associate Thara Uddin in Queens two years ago.
Oscar Morel, 37, was convicted by a state Supreme Court jury of first-degree murder on Friday, reports The Guardian.
The killing of Akonjee, 55, and his friend Thara Uddin, 64, in broad daylight on August 13, 2016, horrified the Bangladeshi community and drew widespread condemnation. They were shot when they were walking home after prayers.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown described the killings of the two men as “a senseless act of gun violence in the middle of the afternoon, carried out in a close-knit neighbourhood filled with families and children.”
Morel, from Brooklyn, was convicted after a trial lasting nearly three weeks. He was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
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Morel faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced on April 18. He had denied the charges.
Prosecutors said Morel approached the men from behind as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque and shot both of them in the head. They were rushed to a hospital where they succumbed to their injuries.
Morel was arrested the following day.
Although some members of the New York Muslim community dubbed the killings hate attacks, prosecutors said the motive was unclear.
In a statement, Afaf Nasher, the executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed gratitude for the conviction on behalf of the victims’ families.
“Nothing can ever replace what Mr Morel took from us, but this verdict helps show that this city will never accept this sort of heartbreaking violence,” the statement said.