Two men were sentenced to death Thursday for the 2013 slaying of a secular blogger in Bangladesh, the first verdicts to be handed down following a spate of killings of writers in the South Asian nation.
A court in Dhaka handed down the death penalty to the two convicts, Mohammad Faisal bin Nayem and Redwanul Azad Rana, who was tried in absentia. Six others received lesser sentences.
The men were convicted of the February 2013 killing of Ahmed Rajib Haidar, a blogger who campaigned against Islamic fundamentalism.
His blog helped ignite protests in 2013 that called for the death penalty for leaders of the hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami party who were being tried for crimes committed during Bangladesh's independence struggle.
Family members said members of Jamaat-e-Islami were behind the killing, a charge the party has denied.
Haidar was hacked to death near his house in Dhaka, leaving his body so badly mutilated that neighbors could not immediately identify him, prosecutors said.
Mufti Jashimuddin Rahmani, the head of the banned militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team, was sentenced to five years in prison, which activists said was too lenient.
Rahmani, whose militant group is believed to be behind the killings of other secular writers, was said to have called for Haidar's killing.
Four other secular writers were killed in 2015 by suspected militants in Bangladesh, prompting many bloggers to flee the country or go into hiding amid rising fears of violence by conservative Islamists.
Among them was Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizen who was attacked along with his wife outside a book fair in Dhaka in February.
Kader is a special correspondent.
Times staff writer Bengali reported from Mumbai, India.