The eight expelled students of North South University vowed to kill atheist bloggers after reading the books and listening to sermons of Mufti Jasim Uddin Rahmani, chief of militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team. They held meetings with Jasim at Markazul Uloom Al-Islamia Madrasa at Basila in Mohammadpur about the killing, police said in the charge sheet submitted on January 28 last year.
They targeted secular blogger Ahmed Rajeeb Haider, who used to write under pseudonym Thaba Baba, for his writings. The accused made two teams – one team collected details about the blogger while the other group carried out the murder in front of Rajeeb’s Mirpur house on February 15, 2013.
Judge Ruhul Amin of the Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court on Wednesday framed charges against Jasim and seven of his followers for the murder of Rajeeb in 2013 and set April 21 to start trial in the case.
Ansarullah is a Bangladeshi follower of al-Qaeda. Its chief Jasim was arrested on September 2, 2013. He was later expelled from the post of chairman of the management committee.
Jasim gave confessional statement before a magistrate mentioning that the students inspired by his sermons might have killed Rajeeb.
“Instigator” Jasim and his six followers – all expelled students of North South University, who were produced before the court, pleaded not guilty and demanded justice. Another accused, also a former NSU student, is currently on the run.
The accused students are “planner” Redwanul Azad Rana (now fugitive), Faisal Bin Nayeem alias Dip, Maksudul Hassan alias Anik, Ehsan Reza Rumman, Nayeem Sikder alias Irad, Nafiz Imtiaz, Sadman Yasir Mahmud. Of them, Rana is also a prime suspect in science writer and blogger Avijit Roy murder.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police recently announced Tk5 lakh bounty for people who would help the law enforcers tracking and arresting Rana. Earlier the Detective Branch of police sent letters to Immigration Police and the Border Guard Bangladesh to stop the accused fleeing the country.
Rajeeb actively participated in the Shahbagh movement in February 2013 and campaigned for the capital punishment of all war criminals and demanding ban on Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir. He was also vocal against religion-based politics and Jamaat’s financial sources.
Four days before the killing, Sonar Bangla blog, run by Chhatra Shibir, posted an article giving names and details of “atheist bloggers” linked to the movement. After the killing, several websites reported the murder incident and tried to justify the killing by terming Rajeeb “atheist.” They also opened a fake WordPress blog site and uploaded derogatory posts defaming Islam and the Prophet.
Two Bangla newspapers – the daily Inquilab and the daily Amar Desh – published the forged blogposts soon after the killing. Following this, radical Islamists including the little-known Hefazat-e-Islam staged violent demonstrations across the country on February 22 demanding death penalty for atheists. Backed by Islamist parties, BNP and Ershad-led Jatiya Party, Hefazat later came up with 13-point demands including formulating anti-blasphemy law.
Visiting Rajeeb’s house after the murder, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assured the family of ensuring justice. She also mentioned that Jamaat-Shibir had no right to do politics in the country as they believed in terrorism.
Demanding exemplary punishment of the killers, Rajeeb’s father Dr Nazimuddin earlier said: “Rajeeb was a progressive person and used to write fervently against communalism and religious extremism on Facebook and community blogs.”