The trial of six men accused of killing Bangladeshi-American writer Avijit Roy four years ago will begin April 30 after a court on Thursday accepted the charge sheet in the case, a lawyer said.
Roy was hacked to death in February 2015 as he was leaving a book fair in Dhaka by assailants who targeted him for his secular views, police have said. Roy, a science writer, ran a well-known blog for secular intellectuals in Bangladesh.
“The counter terrorism unit of the police on March 15 submitted the final charge sheet before the court. The court today formally accepted the charge sheet. This is a big development in the trial process,” prosecutor Jahangir Alam Chowdhury told BenarNews.
“The court will hold a hearing on the police charge sheet on April 30 and frame charges against the six accused militants. According to our judicial system, a trial formally starts with charge-framing,” said Chowdhury, who is one of the prosecutors on the case.
Roy’s father, Ajay Roy, told BenarNews: “I always say, I want a trial of the killers. I will not stop. This is encouraging that the trial starts, though late.”
All six of the suspects in the case allegedly belong to the banned militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). Four are behind bars and have confessed to the crime, according to police. Two others are at large.
But one of the six, Shafiur Rahman Farabi, was acquitted Wednesday by a special cybercrime court of charges he threatened Roy in Facebook posts weeks before the murder.
“As we have not got the full verdict, we cannot say why the cyber tribunal acquitted Farabi. The court just ruled that the prosecution failed to prove the charges,” Nazrul Islam Shamim, the public prosecutor of the cyber tribunal, told BenarNews.
“Upon receiving the full judgment, we will immediately appeal,” he added.
In addition to Farabi, the other men listed in the charge sheet accepted Thursday are Mozammel Hossain (alias Saimon), Abu Siddique Sohel (alias Sakib), Arafat Rahman Siam (alias Sajjad), former army Maj. Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque (alias Major Zia) and Akram Hossain (alias Abir). The latter two are fugitives.
Mukul Rana, identified as one of the men who directly attacked Roy, earlier died in a shootout with the police. Two other suspects died of unspecified causes after being taken into police custody: Manna Yahya (alias Mannan Rahi), and Abul Bashar.
Charges against the three were dropped Thursday, along with charges against seven people deemed innocent and five others whose identities could not be confirmed.
Between February 2013 and April 2016, as many as 10 secular intellectuals including Roy were slain in machete attacks by Muslim militants in Bangladesh.
In July 2016, members of the Neo-JMB militant group mounted a massacre at a Dhaka café, killing 20 hostages, two police officers and two café workers. The incident prompted a fierce counter-terrorism crackdown in the South Asian nation.
No further blogger killings occurred until June 2018 when poet and self-proclaimed atheist Shahzahan Bachchu was dragged out of a shop and shot dead in his home village, after years of receiving death threats from suspected militants.