Bonya Ahmed: ‘Verdict will not bring peace to my family’

Five sentenced to death in murder of Avijit Roy

A court in Bangladesh has sentenced five men to death and one to life in jail for hacking secular blogger Avijit Roy to death six years ago in the capital city of Dhaka.

Roy, a U.S. citizen from Bangladesh, was attacked by machete-wielding assailants in February 2015 while returning home with his wife, Bonya Ahmed, from a Dhaka book fair.

The assault that killed Roy and critically wounded Ahmed was carried out by the group Ansar Ullah Bangla, which is allegedly linked with al-Qaeda. All six men convicted were members of Ansar Ullah Bangla.

Two of the group were tried in absentia, including former army Major Syed Ziaul Haque, who is accused of leading the attackers. He was sentenced to be hanged, as were four others: Abu Siddique Sohel, Mozammel Hossain, Arafat Rahman and Akram Hossain. Hossain and Haque are still on the run.

“Charges against them were proved beyond any doubt. The court gave them the highest punishment,” said public prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan.

This following is a statement given by FFRF Lifetime Member Bonya Ahmed on her Facebook page on Feb 16.

By Bonya Ahmed


Bonya Ahmed
Bonya Ahmed speaks at FFRF’s convention in Pittsburgh in 2016, just 18 months after she and her husband were brutally attacked in Bangladesh. Her husband, secular blogger Avijit Roy, was killed. (Photo by Ingrid Laas)

n 2015, my late husband Avijit Roy — Avi — and I visited Bangladesh, our home country, for the annual book fair where two of Avi’s books were being published. We were attacked by Islamist terrorists. Avi died and I barely survived and the killing spree continued for another year.

Today, the courts released their verdict. They judged whether the attackers murdered Avijit for writing books and blogs about science, philosophy and religion. This verdict is not a closure for me or our family, I never expected it to be.

In six years, not one person investigating the case in Bangladesh reached out to me — though I am a direct witness and victim of the attack. In January, the state lawyer in the case publicly lied, saying that I did not agree to be a witness in the trial. The truth is, no one from Bangladesh’s government or the prosecution has ever contacted me.

Here are my thoughts about this verdict:

The main two culprits — Sayed Ziaul Haque, the top commander, and Akram Hossain, the top operative of the militant group that attacked us — have never been caught. Last week (in the verdict following the murder of Avi’s publisher, Faisal Arefin Dipan, in 2015), we learned that Haque continued to mastermind the serial killings of other secular writers and publishers for eight months(!) after Avi and I were attacked. And, yet, Bangladeshi authorities failed to put him behind bars.

Today, civilized countries cannot get away with extrajudicial killings. But in 2016, Bangladeshi police carried out the extrajudicial killing (via “crossfire,” as it’s commonly called in Bangladesh) of Mukul Rana Sharif. He was reportedly a top operative of the militant group that attacked us. Sharif was in police custody for months before the authorities killed him. Why was Sharif killed?

Dipan’s verdict from last week includes this confessional statement from one of the convicted killers: “In 2015, money used to flow in to kill bloggers, publishers and homosexuals in the country.” I want to know: Who has investigated this flow of money? Has anyone? What will these verdicts accomplish, if we don’t get to the source of the money — or rather, to the source of the killings?

On Feb. 26, 2015, Avi and I were invited to meet a group of science writers. The people who organized that event kept us waiting for hours. Finally, we met the group in the evening. After the event, we were attacked and Avi was killed. Were the organizers of that event ever investigated? What was the outcome?

Bangladesh’s government has become more autocratic since we were attacked: Freedom of speech has been restricted further; secular writers, bloggers, activists were forced to leave the country during and after 2015; a harsher Digital Security Act has been enacted; and bloggers, writers and publishers have been persecuted for their writings on a regular basis. Bangladesh’s prime minister is increasingly friendly with Hefazat-e-Islam, the Islamist group of madrassah teachers and students that demanded “the heads” of secular writers and bloggers in 2014.

Simply prosecuting a few foot-soldiers — and ignoring the rise and roots of extremism — does not mean justice for Avi’s death, nor for the deaths of the “bloggers, publishers and homosexuals” before and after him as part of the serial killing. That’s why this verdict will not bring peace to my family or theirs.