Updated at 5:38 p.m. ET on 2015-08-28
A minister’s nephew is among two men in police custody in connection with last week’s murder of secular Bangladeshi blogger Niladri Chottopaddhya in suburban Dhaka.
Police on Friday announced the arrests of suspects Saad al Nahin and Masud Rana, after taking them into custody Thursday night.
Nahin is the nephew of State Minister for Labor and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu, both the minister and Nahin’s father confirmed. According to police, Nahin was previously arrested for attempting to kill another blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, in 2013, but he was freed on bail after spending a year in jail.
Both suspects belong to an outlawed group suspected of killing Chottopaddhya and at least two other secular bloggers since February 2013, police said.
On Aug. 7, a gang of men entered Chottopaddhya’s apartment and hacked him to death with machetes. It was the fourth killing of a secular blogger this year and the fifth since blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was slain on Feb. 15, 2013. All five victims were cut down with machetes.
“They are members of Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). They were also accused in the attempted murder of Asif Mohiuddin,” Jahangir Alam Sarkar, additional deputy commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s media wing, told BenarNews, referring to the two suspects.
ABT also is known by other names, including Ansar Bangla 7 and Ansar Bangla 8.
However, in a statement emailed to news organizations hours after Chottopaddhya’s murder, Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), claimed responsibility for the grisly act.
Nahin and Rana were arrested Thursday night from their homes in Uttara and Kalshi, two suburbs of Dhaka, Sarkar told reporters.
But Nahin’s father contradicted the police account, saying his son was taken into custody from their house several days earlier.
“A group of people identifying themselves as police detectives took my son in the name of interrogation on Sunday. Since then, we’ve not been able to make any contact with him,” Nazrul Haque, told BenarNews.
He added that he had told his brother, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, the state minister, about his son’s arrest on Sunday.
On Friday, Chunnu spoke to reporters about his nephew’s arrest.
“I’m respectful to the law. If my nephew is involved in a crime, he should be tried under the country’s laws,” the minister said.
‘Nothing to say’
Also on Friday, police produced the suspects before a Dhaka court and asked the court to allow them to hold the two for 10 days.
“We have evidence of their involvement in the murder of Niloy, and we are asking for 10 days’ remand in order to interrogate them thoroughly for the case to proceed,” Dipok Dey, the police officer who registered the case, told Judge Molla Saiful Islam during the hearing.
The judge granted police an eight-day remand.
At the hearing, the judge asked Nahin whether he wanted to say anything, but he declined. Neither he nor fellow suspect Rana were represented by lawyers.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Niladri Chottopaddhya as Niladri Chakrabarty.