Police in Bangladesh this week announced plans to pursue more religious extremists who may know about last month’s killing of a prominent Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger.
Avijit Roy was killed in a machete attack in Dhaka on February 26 while he was on a visit to the country. Police have arrested one extremist Islamist activist who last year allegedly threatened that Roy would be killed if he returned to Bangladesh.
Dhaka police said this week that they have drawn up plan to arrest 10 other activists who might have instigated the killing of the blogger.
A team of investigators from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) landed in Bangladesh last week to investigate the killing of the blogger, in cooperation with local police.
Roy’s wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed, who was injured in the attack, has said police failed to act despite being present in the scene. She also said that she could identify the attackers if she saw them again.
In a phone-interview with VOA, Roy’s father Ajoy Roy, a retired university professor said that his son was a secular humanist who was killed by Islamists for his writing.
“The death threats from those religious extremists in the Facebook and via emails indicated that they were angry with his writings. I am sure, they were trailing him. They got a chance this time, and ended up killing him,” Roy said.
Two days after his son's murder, Roy said he received a phone call from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who assured him that her agencies would do their best to track down the killers.
“With FBI joining hands, I am hopeful that the investigation will move on with good pace and the perpetrators of the crime will be brought to justice,” the 80-year-old professor said. “He was an atheist. In his books and other writings he condemned the ways the religion is practiced in the world. He also wrote against Hinduism.”
Some social media users, who followed the 40-year-old Roy’s activities online, note that the blogger also had enemies among activists from the opposition as well as ruling parties in Bangladesh.
Outspoken blogger a target for criticism
Roy, who ran a blog called “Mukto-Mona”, (Free Mind in Bengali,) was known for his writings on philosophy, human rights and criticism of religious extremism and the government. The atheist blogger also wrote on the web page of U.S.-based “Center for Inquiry”, an organization known for criticizing religions and promoting humanism.
Islamist groups like Hefazat-e-Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami accused Roy of blasphemy for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad and defaming Islam and the Quran.
After the release of his 2014 best-selling book on religious fundamentalism, “Biswasher Virus,” (Virus of Faith in Bengali,) he started receiving threats online from the Islamists.
Last year, an online bookstore stopped selling books written by Roy after receiving death threats on its Facebook site. Also in 2014, Shafiur Rahman Farabi, an Islamist in Bangladesh wrote in a Facebook post: “Avijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.”
Farabi was arrested as a suspect in the 2013 killing of blogger Rajib Haider. He also threatened to kill any Imam who conducted the funeral prayer for the slain blogger. He was later released on bail.
Police suspect that Farabi and 10 other pro-Islamist activists might have instigated the latest killing. Farabi has been arrested in connection with the murder, but has told police he did not attack Roy on February 26. Police hope to arrest the other activists soon.
In November, in an opinion page article in bdnews24.com, a newsportal in Bangladesh, Roy criticized Hindu radicals in connection with their belief that lots of scientific and technological theories originated in ancient (Hindu religious scripture) Vedas.
He also criticized Bangladesh's ruling Awami League (AL) party and the Hasina-led government on different issues.
Bangladesh has seen a series of violent attacks against the atheist bloggers.
In 2004, Humayun Azad, a professor at Dhaka University, known for his liberal and secular writing, was attacked by hacked to death by militants. He died later, while undergoing treatment in Germany.
In 2013, blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed in Dhaka, but he survived the attack. The same year, some men who were apparently angry with Rajib Haider’s blogs, killed him in Dhaka.
In none of the three cases were the assailants identified of caught.