Xulhaz-Tonoy Murder: Killers’ goal was to gag free speech

Court says handing death penalty to 6 Ansar al Islam operatives
A STRANGER TO REMORSE ... Asadullah, one of the six found guilty of the murder of Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy and sentenced to death, gets off a prison van in front of a Dhaka court before the delivery of the verdict yesterday. The member of banned militant outfit Ansar al Islam was all smiles and showed no sign of repentance. Photo: Prabir Das

"The accused do not deserve any sympathy. The role of any of the accused cannot be taken lightly."

— Judge of Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal of Dhaka

The common goal of the Ansar al Islam militants who killed LGBT  rights activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy was to  clamp down on people's freedom of expression and independent activities  by creating terror in the country.  

Judge Md Majibur Rahman of Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal of Dhaka  made the observation yesterday while handing down death sentence to six  members of the banned militant outfit for killing Xulhaz, a former  employee of USAID, and Tonoy on April 25, 2016.

"The accused do not deserve any sympathy. The role of any of the  accused in the murder cannot be taken lightly," the judge said in his  observation on the verdict, adding that justice will be served only if  they are hanged. 

The judge said the accused labelled the victims as associates of  homosexuals and brutally murdered them as per a decision of the militant  outfit.

Xulhaz and Tonoy had to pay with their  lives as they worked to establish the homosexuals in the society, he  said.

Those sentenced to death are: Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque alias Maj  (sacked) Zia, Akram Hossain, Mozammel Hossain Saimon, Arafat Rahman  Siam, Sheikh Abdullah alias Jubair, and Asadullah alias Foyjul.

The charges against them were proven beyond doubt, the judgement said.

Mozammel, Abdullah, Arafat, Asadullah and Akram had recced the area,  where Xulhaz lived, several times before the murder. Xulhaz and Tonoy  were killed at Zia's directive, it said.

Zia and Akram are still on the run. The other convicts are  behind bars. Mozammel, Sheikh Abdullah, Arafat and Asadullah had earlier  confessed their involvement in the murder.

The court acquitted, however, two accused -- Sabbirul Haque  Chowdhury and Junaid Ahmed alias Maulana Junaid -- as the charges  against them could not be proven.

The verdict was pronounced around 12:10pm with four of the accused in the dock.

With their hands cuffed, the four were taken to the courtroom in  helmets and bullet-proof vests around 30 minutes before noon amid tight  security.

While getting off a prison van in front of the court building, Asadullah was all smiles. There was no sign of any remorse.

A large number of police personnel surrounded the four accused as  they stood in the dock. An archway metal detector was set up at the  entrance to the bloc that housed the tribunal.

The trial was completed in 13 working days after charges were framed  against the accused, the judge said, adding that 24 prosecution  witnesses testified during the trial proceedings.

On April 25, 2016, Xulhaz and Tonoy were hacked to death inside Xulhaz's Kalabagan home in the capital.

Xulhaz was also the editor of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and  Transgender (LGBT) magazine "Roopbaan", while Tonoy was an activist of  theatre group Loknatya Dal.

Minhaz Mannan Emon, elder brother of Xulhaz, filed a murder case  accusing some unidentified assailants with Kalabagan Police Station the  same day.

On July 23, 2019, Inspector Muhammad Monirul Islam of Counter  Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of police submitted the  charge sheet in the case before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court of  Dhaka naming eight Ansar Al Islam members, including Zia, as accused. 

On November 19 last year, the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal framed charges against them.

On February 10 this year, Zia, Akram, Mozammel and Abdullah were  sentenced to death for murdering Jagriti Prokashoni publisher Faisal  Arefin Dipan inside Aziz Super Market in the capital's Shahbagh area.

On February 16, Zia, Akram, Mozammel and Arafat were also sentenced  to death for killing writer-blogger Avijit Roy near the TSC of Dhaka  University.


The four convicts seemed calm when the judge read out the  verdict. None of them showed any sign of repentance. They talked among  themselves and laughed occasionally. 

After the judge delivered the verdict and left the room, Arafat and Asadullah hailed the verdict.

Around 20 minutes before the verdict was delivered, Arafat and  Abdullah got engaged in a verbal altercation with on-duty policemen as  the cops tried to cuff them.

Asked about his reaction on the verdict, Xulhaz's brother Minhaz  Mannan Emon said he was not the right person to express satisfaction or  dissatisfaction over the judgement.

"I don't know the killers. I could not even lodge the complaint against any specific person," he told The Daily Star over phone.

"Some unidentified assailants brutally killed my brother. I filed  the case seeking justice. I wanted the killers to be identified and  arrested. After a long time, the judgement has been pronounced. 

"It will be better if you take the opinion of the state, which is engaged in the entire procedure and discharged its duties." 

Dhaka Metropolitan Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu expressed satisfaction over the verdict. 

Defence lawyer MABM Khairul Islam said they were not satisfied. He  said they would challenge the judgement with the higher court.