March 17, 2015

BANGLADESH: American Atheist Blogger Hacked To Death With Machetes By Islamist Assailants Who Were "Offended" By His Free Thinking.

Social activists, bloggers and writers attend a protest demanding the arrest of Avijit Roy’s killer. Photograph: Shariful Islam/Xinhua Press/Corbis
Bangladeshi secular activists take part in a torch-lit protest against the killing of Avijit Roy. Photograph: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian, UK
written by AFP staff
Friday February 27, 2015

A prominent American blogger of Bangladeshi origin has been hacked to death with machetes by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, after he allegedly received threats from Islamists.

The body of Avijit Roy, founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site – which champions liberal secular writing in the Muslim-majority nation – was found covered in blood after an attack that also left his wife critically wounded.

“He died as he was brought to the hospital. His wife was also seriously wounded. She has lost a finger,” local police chief Sirajul Islam said.

The couple were on a bicycle rickshaw, returning from a book fair, when two assailants stopped and dragged them on to the pavement before striking them with machetes, local media reported, citing witnesses.

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Dhaka to denounce the murder, chanting slogans including “we want justice” and “raise your voice against militants”.

Imran Sarker, the head of the Bangladesh bloggers’ association, said the protests would continue until those responsible were apprehended. “Avijit’s killing once again proved that there is a culture of impunity in the country,” Sarker told Agence France-Presse. “The government must arrest the killers in 24 hours or face non-stop protests.”

Roy, who was 42, is the second Bangladeshi blogger to have been murdered in two years and the fourth writer to have been attacked since 2004.

Hardline Islamist groups have long demanded the public killing of atheist bloggers and sought new laws to deal with writing critical of Islam.

“Roy suffered fatal wounds in the head and died from bleeding ... after being brought to the hospital,” Dr Sohel Ahmed told reporters.

Police have launched an inquiry and recovered the machetes used in the attack but could not confirm whether Islamists were behind the incident.

But Roy’s father said the writer, a US citizen, had received a number of “threatening” emails and messages on social media from hardliners unhappy with his writing. “He was a secular humanist and has written about 10 books,” Ajoy Roy told AFP.His most famous work was Biswasher Virus (Virus of Faith).

The Center for Inquiry, a US-based charity promoting free thought, said it was “shocked and heartbroken” by the brutal murder. “Dr Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack,” it said in a statement.

Roy’s killing also triggered strong condemnation from his fellow writers and publishers, who lamented the growing religious conservatism and intolerance in Bangladesh.

“The attack on Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, is outrageous. We strongly protest this attack and are deeply concerned about the safety of writers,” said Sarker.

Pinaki Bhattacharya, a fellow blogger and friend of Roy, claimed one of the country’s largest online book retailers was being openly threatened for selling Roy’s books.

“In Bangladesh the easiest target is an atheist. An atheist can be attacked and murdered,” he wrote on Facebook.

Atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death in 2013 by members of a little-known Islamist militant group, triggering nationwide protests by tens of thousands of secular activists.

“The pattern of the killing appeared to be the same as that of previous attack on a celebrated writer,” said Shiblee Noman, assistant commissioner of Dhaka police. “It seems it was carried out by a reactionary fundamentalist group.”

After Haider’s death, Bangladesh’s hardline Islamist groups started to protest against other campaigning bloggers, calling a series of nationwide strikes to demand their deaths, accusing them of blasphemy.

The secular government of the Bangladeshi prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, reacted by arresting some atheist bloggers.

The government also blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the furore over blasphemy, as well as stepping up security for the bloggers.

On Friday Sarker said: “Communal and militant groups have threatened the very spirit of our nation. Yet instead of crushing them, the government was keen on appeasing them by arresting secular bloggers.”

Noman said police were investigating a tweet by the pro-Islamist group Ansar Bangla Seven that appeared to celebrate Roy’s murder.

“Target Down here in Bangladesh,” the group tweeted from the @AnsarBn7 handle.

The US embassy to Bangladesh offered its condolences to Roy’s family and said it was providing consular assistance. Roy’s wife, who is also a blogger, was moved to a clinic for further treatment on Friday.

Bangladesh is the world’s fourth-largest Muslim majority nation with Muslims making up some 90 per cent of the country’s 160 million people.

A tribunal has recently handed down a series of verdicts against leading Islamists and others for crimes committed during the war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.
Hindustan Times
written by AFP staff
Wednesday March 11, 2015

The widow of an American atheist blogger who was murdered in Bangladesh in February accused police on Wednesday of standing idle while he was being hacked to death with machetes in downtown Dhaka.

In her first statement since the February 26 attack in which she herself was badly injured, Rafida Bonya Ahmed said her husband Avijit Roy was murdered because he "critiqued religious fundamentalism".

"As his wife, fellow writer, and a freethinker, I strongly condemn this gruesome act of terror," she said in an emailed statement to AFP from her home in the United States.

"While Avijit and I were being ruthlessly attacked, the local police stood close by and did not act."

Witnesses said Roy and wife had been returning from a book fair when they were both hauled off their rickshaw on a busy street in the centre of the capital by at least two assailants who then slashed them with machetes.

Ahmed, who lost a finger in the attack, was initially treated for her injuries in Bangladesh before being flown home to the United States.

Bangladesh-born Roy, who emigrated to the southern state of Georgia some 15 years ago, was well known in his native land for his Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog where he railed against all forms of organised religion.

He was also the author of a series of books, including the best-selling "The Virus of Faith", which was hugely contentious in Bangladesh, an officially secular state where around 90 percent of people are Muslim.

In her statement, Ahmed called on the Bangladeshi government to "do everything in its power to bring the murderers to justice".

Bangladeshi security forces last week arrested Islamic "fundamentalist blogger" Farabi Shafiur Rahman Farabi in connection with the killing. He was subsequently remanded in custody to allow further questioning.

Roy was the second atheist blogger to have been murdered in Bangladesh in the last two years and the fourth writer to have been attacked since 2004.

His killing was greeted with uproar both at home and abroad, with Washington condemning the "shocking act of violence" as an assault on the country's "proud tradition" of free speech.

Reuters News
written by Serajul Quadir
Saturday March 14, 2015

A government adviser on Saturday asked the chief of Bangladesh police to identify the officers who failed to act when a U.S. blogger was attacked and killed last month in Dhaka.

"Identify the black sheep among the force and bring them under law and justice to uphold your image," said H.T. Imam, political adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Imam directed the remarks to AKM Shahidul Hoque, the inspector general of Bangladesh police, while addressing a meeting on "Image of Bangladesh Police" held at Dhaka University.

It was at the university that Avijit Roy, an engineer of Bangladeshi origin, was killed by machete-wielding assailants as he and his wife were returning from a book fair last month. His wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, suffered head injuries and lost a finger. She later returned to the United States for treatment.

"While Avijit and I were being ruthlessly attacked, the local police stood close by and did not act," Rafida told Reuters on Tuesday. "Now, we demand that the Bangladeshi government do everything in its power to bring the murderers to justice."

Hoque, the chief of police, told the meeting that the allegations were under investigation. He also said the university campus will now be covered by closed circuit television.

On Saturday a court allowed one suspect in the killing, Farabi Shafiur Rahman, to be remanded in custody for another five days. He had already been held for 10 days, during which he denied killing Avijit but said that he was glad the blogger was attacked.

Rahman had previously been jailed for his ties to the extremist Hizbut Tahrir Islamist group.[L4N0W4319]

Avijit's killing follows a string of attacks on secular bloggers in recent years in the Muslim-majority nation. Media group Reporters Without Borders rated Bangladesh 146th among 180 countries in a ranking of press freedom last year.

Rafida urged the government to "stop a legal culture of impunity, where writers can be killed without the killers being brought to trial".

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