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Arrest in Bangladesh over blogger murder

March 2, 2015

Bangladesh's elite security force has arrested its "main suspect" over the murder of atheist Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy. The man was previously arrested over comments linked to another murder.

Avijit Roy
Image: Privat

A spokesman for the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said their "main suspect" was arrested on Monday at a bus stop in the capital, Dhaka.

The man, identified as Farabi Shafiur Rahman, previously made several death threats towards Roy on Facebook and Twitter. Last year, Farabi posted on Facebook: "It's a holy duty of Bangalee Muslims to kill Avijit."

It's understood Farabi has been previously jailed for ties to the extremist Hizbut Tahrir Islamist group.

Police said Farabi was also arrested in 2013 for social media comments that supported the murder of another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, but he was later released on bail.

According to news agency AFP, a source in the RAB also said the elite force had seen correspondence between Farabi and another person about killing Roy.

Writer known for tackling controversial topics

The Bagladeshi-born American was hacked to death with a machete in downtown Dhaka last Thursday while walking near Dhaka University with his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna, who is still in hospital. The pair was attacked as they left a book fair.

Roy, who founded the Mukto-Mona (free-mind) blog, was well known for his writings on philosophy and human rights issues, and penned a number of controversial books including Samakamita (Homosexuality) and Obiswasher Darson (Philosophy of Atheists). Last year, an online bookstore stopped selling his titles after receiving death threats on its Facebook page.

The 40-year-old was also an atheist and government critic and had been accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and defaming Islam by Islamists who were thought to have links to the militant Hefazat-e-Islam group.

Free speech

Roy was the second Bangladeshi atheist blogger to have been murdered in two years and the fourth writer to have been attacked since 2004.

Islamist groups are targeting bloggers in Bangladesh, who are using online platforms as a means of free speech in an otherwise restricted setting; large-scale "Shahbag protests" in the capital Dhaka in 2013 between bloggers, Islamists and government supporters led to a crackdown on inflammatory speech - on and offline.

ksb/jr (Reuters, AFP)