Bangladesh welcomes US reward for information about Avijit killers

The Bangladesh government has welcomed the US State Department’s reward for information about the 2015 killing of writer-blogger Avijit Roy in Dhaka, specifically about two fugitive convicts.

Published : 21 Dec 2021, 01:02 PM
Updated : 21 Dec 2021, 03:16 PM

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen believes the offer of up to $5 million reward will help the efforts to catch the fugitives.

“We don’t know where, in which country they [fugitives] are. This [US reward] will help our efforts a bit to catch them.” 

The fugitive convicts are sacked army major Syed Ziaul Haque aka Major Zia and Akram Hossain alias Abir.

The Islamist militants hacked to death Avijit, the US-based Bangladeshi science writer and founder of the Muktomona blog, on Feb 26, 2015 just after he had left the Amar Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka. His wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya was also wounded in the attack.

Dhaka’s Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal on Feb 16 this year sentenced Syed Ziaul, Akram and three other militants to death for the murder of Avijit. The three others -- Md Mozzammel Hussain alias Saimon alias Shahriar, Md Abu Siddiq Sohel alias Sakib alias Sajid alias Shahab, Md Arafat Rahman -- are behind bars. Another defendant, Safiur Rahman Farabi, was jailed for life.

The Department of State announced the reward under its Rewards for Justice programme on Monday.

“As an author, blogger, and activist, Roy challenged fundamentalism in Bangladesh by advocating for freedom of expression. He coordinated international protests to raise awareness of the plight of imprisoned atheist bloggers in Bangladesh and was a well-known critic of social repression. He was targeted and killed for his outspoken beliefs and activism,” the Rewards for Justice programme said in a statement.

It also said those responsible for the attack are believed to be in Bangladesh.

But Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, speaking at a programme in Manikganj on Tuesday, said, “As per the information we have, they [Ziaul and Akram] are not in the country. They have gone into hiding in another country.”     

“The verdict will be implemented after catching them as soon as possible. Our efforts are on to catch them.”

Speaking to reporters after an event in Dhaka on Tuesday, Momen welcomed the US announcement, saying the killers of Avijit “must face justice”. “Two of them are on the run. If this [reward] makes it possible to catch them, that is most welcome.”

He said previous US efforts to abet the arrest of suspects abroad had been successful. “I’ve heard that it happened in the case of [Osama] bin Laden. This strategy appears to be successful in many cases.”

Momen said Bangladesh also offered a reward for information about some of the fugitive convicts in a case over the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The government does not know the whereabouts of three of the fugitives.

He said every country has fugitives from justice, admitting that the law enforcers in Bangladesh find it difficult to find absconding suspects or convicts due to a lack of manpower against a huge population.  

The US recently imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion and seven officials for “gross violation of human rights”. Now it has announced reward for a murder that took place in Bangladesh.    

Asked if the government feels pressure over the recent US moves, the foreign minister said, “They [the US] are following their own rules. But they haven’t done anything special to us officially. They are doing their job while we are doing ours.”

“Whenever a country makes development, its enemies and the pressure on it grow.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher