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Dhaka Tribune

Prof Humayun Azad murder: Four militants to walk the gallows

Convicts are members of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh

Update : 13 Apr 2022, 10:47 PM

Following long-running judicial proceedings stretching to 18 years, four extremists of the banned militant group Jama’atul Mujaheedin Bangladesh (JMB) have been sentenced to death over the brutal attack on writer-intellectual Prof Humayun Azad in 2004.

Judge Al Mamun of the Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court in Dhaka pronounced the verdict in a jam-packed courtroom in the presence of two  of the four convicts yesterday.

The death row convicts are Salehin Sani alias Salahuddin, Anwarul Alam alias Anwar, Mizanur Rahman alias Minhaz and Nur Mohammad. The court also fined each convict Tk50,000.

Of the convicts, Salahuddin was given the death sentence in another case as well. On February 23, 2014, JMB operatives mounted an operation and snatched Salahuddin from a prison van in Trishal of Mymensingh.

Anwar and Minhaz were present in the dock when the court handed down the verdict and Nur was tried in absentia. Another accused in the case, Hafiz Mahmud, died during the trial period.

On February 27, 2004, JMB activists hacked 56-year-old Prof Azad, a professor of Dhaka University’s Bangla department, as he was trying to hail a rickshaw to go home from the Ekushey Book Fair at Bangla Academy in the capital.

The brutal attack on a secular voice like Prof Azad left the nation shocked and in a state of panic.

After the attack, Azad was treated at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for 26 days. Later, the government sent him to Bangkok, Thailand, for better treatment. He returned home after over 47 days.

Later, he died while undergoing treatment in Germany on August 12, 2004.

Dhaka Tribune

Family satisfied with verdict

The family members of Prof Azad have expressed their satisfaction over the judgment.

"We are satisfied with the verdict. But now we demand the implementation of the verdict quickly. Arrest the fugitives and bring them to justice. Then we will be fully satisfied,” his daughter Mauli Azad told the media.

She further said that if the verdict was implemented quickly, attacks on writers would be stopped in the coming days.

‘Attack planned to create chaos’

The court in its verdict said the convicts were members of an extremist group which targeted the country’s free thinkers and intellectuals for a few years prior to the attack in 2004.

The convicts were trying to create a chaotic situation in the country. The prosecution was undoubtedly able to prove the charges brought against the accused and they were given the highest punishment for their heinous crimes, the court observed.

Issuing arrest warrants against the fugitives, the court said that the punishment of the fugitives would be effective from the day of their arrest or surrender.

Lengthy trial proceedings

Two cases filed over the attack on and death of Prof Azad were delayed much due to the non-appearance of witnesses, and the alleged negligence of prosecution lawyers.

A day after the murder attempt, Prof Azad’s brother Manzur Kabir filed an attempt to murder case with Ramna police station against some unnamed people. Later, the case turned into a murder case with his death on August 12, 2004.

Three years after the incident, CID Inspector Kazi Abdul Malek pressed charges against five people on November 14, 2007.

On October 20, 2009, a Dhaka court ordered further investigation into the case following a petition filed by Manzur Kabir.

Following reinvestigation, the CID submitted a fresh charge sheet accusing five JMB leaders of committing the crime and appealed to the court to turn the case into a murder case on April 30, 2012.

On September 10, 2012, the court indicted the four JMB leaders.

Dhaka Tribune

Targeted For His Book

Prof Humayun Azad was born in Rarhikhal village in Bikrampur, Munshiganj, on April 28, 1947. He was honoured with the Bangla Academy Literary Award in 1986 for his contributions to Bangla linguistics.

In 2012, he was awarded the Ekushey Padak.

He had written a satire called “Pak Sar Jamin Shad Bad” (Blessed Be the Sacred Land) where he criticized the political ideologies of the pro-Pakistani Islamic extremists of Bangladesh. After the book was published at the book fair of 2004, he started receiving threats, with Islamist parties parading the streets demanding his arrest.

A week before the attack on him, then lawmaker of Jamaat-e-Islami Delawar Hossain Sayeedi said in Parliament that Prof Azad’s political satire must be banned, and wanted to table a blasphemy law in Bangladesh for this kind of book.

Publisher Osman Gani told the court that the book was hugely successful and was published in the Daily Ittefaq as well.

“The extremists took out protests to ban the book. They announced Humayun Azad as a Murtad (someone who abandons Islam, an apostate) and threatened to kill him. They also sent me death threats,” he added.

The attack on Prof Azad was one of the first incidents of a series of assaults on free thinkers and intellectuals of the country by suspected militants. Many more bloggers and free-thinkers were attacked in the following years which led to widespread protests around the country and drew condemnation from abroad and international organizations.

More than a decade after Azad’s killing, US-based Bangladeshi science-writer and blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death after leaving the Ekushey Book Fair in 2015.

Several other freethinking bloggers were targeted in a series of fatal attacks in recent years after the one on Avijit.

The Bangladesh authorities launched a deadly crackdown on terrorists to root out Islamist militancy after the 2016 attack on Holey Artisan Bakery that saw 17 foreign diners killed.

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