On February 26, 2015, two unidentified men approached Avijit Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, as they were leaving a book fair in the Dhaka University campus area, according to Bonna and witnesses, the Dhaka Tribune reported. The assailants stabbed and hacked at them with sharp weapons and fled the scene, news reports said. Roy and Bonna were taken to a local hospital, where Roy was pronounced dead, according to news reports. Bonna was critically wounded.
Roy, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was visiting Bangladesh to attend the book fair, news accounts said. The blogger had covered secular issues including science, homosexuality, atheism, and free expression on his blog, Mukto-Mona (Free Mind), and had published several books on those issues, news reports said. Roy, a Hindu, was critical of religious fundamentalism in his writings on Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country.
The blogger had reported receiving death threats from Islamists to his friends and family and to the U.K.-based human rights organization the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the organization said. The blogger’s father told journalists that Roy had received threatening messages over email and on social media from individuals who were unhappy with his writing, news reports said.
Police said they suspected Islamist radicals were involved in the murder, according to news reports. In 2013, Islamist groups called for the execution of bloggers they said had committed blasphemy, according to news reports.
The killing attracted international attention. Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived about a week after Roy’s murder to assist local police in the investigation, according to news reports. On March 2, 2015 Bangladeshi authorities arrested Shafiur Rahman Farabi, a 29-year-old student and a Muslim blogger who had often preached radicalism, according to news reports.
The court sentenced Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque, Akram Hossain, Abu Siddique Sohel, Mozammel Hossain, and Arafat Rahman to death by hanging, and Shafiur Rahman Farabi to life imprisonment, according to those reports. The six defendants were all members of the banned militant outfit Ansar al-Islam, and killed Roy for being a “secular writer,” according to those reports.
Haque and Akram are in hiding and were sentenced in absentia, while the others were in custody, according to the BBC, which stated that lawyers for the defendants planned to appeal the verdict.