A Dhaka court Tuesday granted police a five-day remand to interrogate a man convicted in the 2013 hacking death of a secular blogger, following his extradition from Malaysia with an associate who was allegedly accompanying him to the southern Philippines.
Redwanul Azad Rana, who fled Bangladesh before being sentenced to death for the murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, and Rana’s associate, Ashraf, were deported to Bangladesh on Monday. They were arrested in Malaysia after trying to join the militant Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines, according to Bangladeshi police officials.
Rana was convicted and sentenced in absentia in December 2015 for the Haider killing, but he appeared in court Tuesday over a different charge related to Bangladesh’s revised anti-terror laws. Six others were convicted in the trial stemming from the blogger’s murder, including Mohammad Faisal bin Nayem, who also received a death sentence.
On Feb. 15, 2013, machete-wielding assailants killed Haider, an activist with the Shahbag movement, which seeks the executions of convicted war criminals from Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan and a ban on religion-based parties in Bangladesh. Other suspects identified Rana as the planner of Haider’s killing.
It was the first of a series of fatal attacks targeting secular writers and publishers of secular works. After Haider’s murder, six other bloggers and publisher were killed during similar attacks in 2015 and 2016 by suspected Islamic militants.
Rana was arrested on Monday after returning to Bangladesh from Malaysia, Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews.
“We sought a 10-day remand for Rana and his associate extradited from Malaysia, but the court granted five days,” Rahman said.
Haider’s father, Nazimuddin, asked how Rana was able to leave the country in the first place.
“My question is how does he manage to flee? Would Rana be arrested at all without extradition by Malaysian police?” Nazimuddin told BenarNews.
Meanwhile, a police leader praised efforts to capture the suspects.
“The police were able to identify and arrest the killers of Ahmed Rajib Haider in two months, starting from zero,” police counterterrorism chief Monirul Islam told BenarNews.
“His real identity was detected with only two pieces of information, the nickname Rana and a description of his physique,” Islam said.
He said Rana managed to flee to Malaysia before law enforcers could determine his identity. In 2014, police sent his photograph and relevant information to their Malaysian counterparts, Islam said.
“We had been in contact with the Malaysian detective polices,” he said.
Ansarullah Bangla Team
Police officials said Rana held an important role with Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a militant outfit blamed for killing bloggers, publishers and writers.
Officials said Rana associated with Junnun Shikder who was listed as one of 10 men that Bangladesh police were searching for following the Holey Artisan Bakery café attack in July 2016, in which 20 hostages were killed. Police said they had information that Shikder had fled to Syria, adding that Rana tried to go as well, but failed.
Malaysian police arrested Rana as he had been trying to reach the Philippines to be connected with the Abu Sayyaf Group and put him on a Bangladesh-bound plane, officials said.
Bangladeshi officials did not clarify when the two Bangladeshis were arrested on Malaysian soil.
Last month, Malaysian police announced that two Bangladeshi men were arrested in the eastern state of Sabah as part of a suspected Islamic State cell that was allegedly helping IS members and supporters travel to the nearby southern Philippines, where Islamic militant organizations, including Abu Sayyaf and IS-linked groups, are based. The suspects’ names were not released.