New York man convicted of killing Bangladeshi imam, his assistant

A US court has convicted a New York City man of first-degree murder for the 2016 killings of a Bangladeshi-American Muslim cleric and his assistant.

New York
Published : 24 March 2018, 02:29 PM
Updated : 24 March 2018, 03:14 PM

Convict Oscar Morel, 37, of Brooklyn, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced on Apr 18.

A state supreme court jury on Friday convicted Morel in the fatal shootings of imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and his associate muezzin Thara Uddin, 64,— both Bangladeshi.

The shooting took place in the Ozone Park neighbourhood when the two were walking home together following afternoon prayers on Aug 13, 2016, horrifying the neighbourhood's Bangladeshi community.

Richard A Brown, district attorney of the borough of Queens, called the killings "a senseless act of gun violence in the middle of the afternoon and carried out in a close-knit neighbourhood filled with families and children," the New York Times said.

According to the report, Brown said in a statement that he hopes the verdict "will bring some closure to the family and many friends of the two men killed."

Thara Uddin

Maulana Alauddin Akonjee

Akonjee was described as a peaceful man who was beloved within Ozone Park's large Muslim community.

Afaf Nasher, the executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, released a statement on behalf of the victims' families expressing gratitude for the conviction, the newspaper said.

"Maulana and Thara came to this country in search of a better life, instead they found Mr Morel's hatred," the statement said, according to the report.

"Nothing can ever replace what Mr Morel took from us, but this verdict helps show that this city will never accept this sort of heartbreaking violence."

Maulana Akonjee, a father of seven, hails from Nabiganj in Habiganj district while Thara Uddin from Jangahati village of Golapganj Upazila of Sylhet district. 

Oscar Morel appears for an arraignment at the Queens Criminal Court for his alleged involvement in the murder of Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin in Queens, New York, U.S., August 16, 2016. Reuters

The two families emigrated to the United States from Bangladesh several years ago.

Defence lawyer Michael Schwed said he would appeal the verdict against his client.

When he was charged in court on Aug 16, 2016, Morel appeared calm and spoke little during his brief appearance. He agreed that surveillance video showed him at the scene of the murders, but denied being the killer.

Citing unnamed police sources, several US media outlets reported the law enforcers had found an unlicensed revolver hidden in a wall of Morel's basement apartment in Brooklyn that authorities believed he had used in the execution-style killings.

Police also found clothes in his apartment that matched what the gunman had been hearing, according to the media reports.