Eight men in Bangladesh will be hanged for their role in murdering the publisher Faisal Abedin Deepan (below, also spelling “Dipon” or “Dipan” in some accounts).
It’s the culmination of a years-long saga involving alleged blasphemy and religious zealots who thought they were defending Allah by killing atheists and people associated with them.
Deepan was the former head of the Jagriti Prakashani publishing house, which had put out the works of Dr. Avijit Roy, an atheist author who was hacked to death in February of 2015. (In 2019, six men were charged with Roy’s assassination.)
The 43-year-old publisher was found dead in his office in late 2015 by his own father, who told reporters “I saw him lying upside down and in a massive pool of blood. They slaughtered his neck. He is dead.” The attack came at the hands of the group Ansar al Islam. (Another publisher of Roy’s books was also attacked that day, but he thankfully survived. It’s suspected that the same group went after both publishers.)
The suspects were indicted in 2019:
Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal Judge Majibur Rahman read out the charges to six of the suspects, who pleaded not guilty. Another two, including a sacked military official, remained fugitives, but the judge issued arrest warrants for them.
And today, we learned they will finally face consequences for their crime:
On Wednesday, Judge Md Majibur Rahman of Dhaka’s special anti-terrorism tribunal gave the verdict in the presence of six of the eight accused in a packed courtroom.
Those sentenced to death are sacked army officer Major Ziaul Haque, Moinul Hasan Shamim, Md Abdus Sabur, Khairul Islam, Md Abu Siddique Sohel, Md Mozammel Hossain Saimon, Md Sheikh Abdullah, and Akram Hossain alias Hasib.
“Those who killed a person for publishing books are the enemy of society and state,” Judge Rahman said while reading out the verdict.
“If the criminals involved in this heinous act survive, other members of Ansar al-Islam will be motivated to commit such crimes,” he said, adding that only a death penalty will “ensure justice and it will be an exemplary punishment”.
As someone who’s opposed to the death penalty on principle, I can’t say this is the ideal punishment. If anything, Islamic terrorists don’t fear death; it just makes them martyrs for the cause.
That’s also the reaction from Asif Mohiuddin, a blogger who survived a similar attack on his life:
Exiled Bangladeshi blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who lives in Germany, told Al Jazeera he is opposed to capital punishment “under any circumstances” and that the Bangladesh government and judiciary should have tried to find the root cause of murders such as Dipon’s.
“I personally condemn this verdict on Dipon murder case as I am not a supporter of capital punishment,” he said.
Mohiuddin fears that books promoting religious extremism are the bigger problem; unless the government cracks down on those, the faith-based killings won’t end. (It’s a bit strange to hear him denounce the death penalty while advocating for the suppression of free speech, but I hear what he’s saying.)
A lawyer for the eight men said they would appeal the death sentences. Deepan’s wife was satisfied with the punishment.
As I’ve said before, it’s appalling that it took this long for police to get to the bottom of this murder, and equally upsetting that it may have been the incredible amount of global outrage that spurred them to even give a damn. Still, after a wave of attacks on atheists and their allies in Bangladesh, it’s a relief that their assailants are finally being held to account. If only that relief didn’t come in the form of further killings.
Blasphemy, as they say, is a victimless crime. But in Bangladesh, those accused of blaspheming have been victims of unspeakable horrors. The government often made the problem worse by suggesting that criticizing religion was an actual problem. Unless that culture changes, this won’t be the last time we hear a story like this.
(Thanks to everyone for the link)