A Bangladeshi anti-terrorism tribunal on Tuesday sentenced six members of an Islamist militant group to death in connection with the brutal slayings of a prominent gay rights activist and his friend five years ago, a local media platform reported.
In April 2016, Xulhaz Mannan, 35, an editor of a magazine for Bangladesh’s gay and lesbian community, and his friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, 25, were hacked to death in an apartment in the capital Dhaka.
Ansar al-Islam, a group that was banned by the Bangladesh government in 2020, claimed responsibility for the attack. Officials said the group is a regional arm of the Islamic militant organization al Qaeda.
The killings were part of a wave of violent attacks that target foreigners, religious minorities, and secular bloggers.
“They will be hanged by [the] neck until their death,” Judge Md Majibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal said in a statement on Tuesday.
According to prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan, two of the suspects were acquitted while four of the six sentenced Islamist extremists are still on the run.
The individuals sentenced to death include fugitive ex-army major Syed Ziaul Haque Zia, Akram Hossain, Md Mozammel Hossain alias Saimon, Md Sheikh Abdullah, Arafat Rahman, and Asadullah.
“We are happy with the judgment. At least after a long time, we get justice,” gay rights activist Shahanur Islam said in a statement. “But as the LGBT activist as well as anti-death penalty activist, I always prefer a life sentence … instead of the death penalty.”
“Now we have to see what step the government takes. Two culprits are still absconded. Now our expectation the government will take prompt action for the execution of judgment after arresting the absconded culprits,” he added.
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