The verdict on the writer Avijit Roy murder case has been passed after six years. On 26 February 2015, Avijit was chopped to death allegedly by some extremists at the TSC intersection, while leaving the Amar Ekushe Boi Mela (the annual book fair) held on the Suhrawardy Udyan premises. His wife Rafida Ahmed was also attacked as she tried to rescue him.
On Tuesday, the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal judge Md Mujibur Rahman sentenced five murderers including the sacked army major Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque. The four others are Akram Hossain, Abu Siddique Sohail, Mozammel Hossain and Arafat Rahman. The tribunal sentenced Shafiur Rahman Farabi to life imprisonment for life. All the convicted murderers were members of banned extremist outfit Ansar al-Islam. Among the them, Ziaul and Akram are absconding.
Absconding Ziaul and Akram and detained Mozammel and Sidduque are the convicted murderers of Jagriti Prakashani publisher Foysal Arefin Dipon.
We have just received a judgment after a six-year period of uncertainty. Simply prosecuting a few foot-soldiers -- and ignoring the rise and roots of extremism -- does not mean justice
Extremist Harkat-ul Jihad, shortly Huji, had emerged in Bangladesh during 1980s. After a decade, Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) appeared in the limelight. And the next one Ansar al-Islam started to reign under the leadership of the sacked army major Ziaul. Members of the organisation killed many free-thinkers and people of divergent views.
While delivering observation on the trial, the court rightfully said that the judgment was made to encourage freedom to expression. The core motive of the murder was to undermine rights to freedom of expression so no one can think and write freely. Despite the delays, the judgments on the Dipon and Avijit murders cases have opened the window for justice. We will have to wait for the final decision from the Appellate Division to see the culprits actually getting punishment.
The concern is that the convicted Ziaul, the alleged killer of some other people too, is still absconding. The US-expatriate Rafida, widow of slain Avijit expressed her reaction saying, “We have just received a judgment after a six-year period of uncertainty. Simply prosecuting a few foot-soldiers -- and ignoring the rise and roots of extremism -- does not mean justice”.
The state should arrest the two absconding murderers and punish them. According to some news media, Ziaul is still hiding in Bangladesh. If that is true, the government should try its best to capture the killer. Even if he fled the country, assistance from the Interpol to trace his whereabouts can be taken to bring him back.
It is significant that the court's verdict aims at encouraging freedom of expression. We all know that extremists do not to tolerate different points of view. The government claims that it has brought extremism under control. But the congenial atmosphere to practice freedom of expression is still absent in Bangladesh. Often now, state policymakers come up with messages that discourage free-thinking. This must change. We should not consider extremist activities and attacks to me mere law and order issues. The evil politics behind the killing sprees must be addressed. If an environment conducive to divergent views and free is established, extremism cannot flourish.