[JURIST] A court in Bangladesh sentenced two men to death and six others to prison on Thursday for murdering Ahmed Rajib Haider, an atheist blogger known by the name of Thaba Baba, in 2013. Those convicted included [AP report] seven university students and Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani, a leader of the outlawed Islamist Ansarullah Bangla Team. The students claim that Rahmani gave sermons urging his followers to kill all atheist bloggers to protect Islam. Haider's blog had focused on banning the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI) [party website] that stands in opposition of Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. The defendants plan to appeal [Al Jazeera report] the convictions to a higher court.
Last month the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged [JURIST report] Bangladesh to more more significant efforts to prevent extremist groups from targeting writers and publishers. In August Bangladeshi authorities arrested [JURIST report] three Islamic extremists allegedly involved in the murder of two secular bloggers. Al Jazeera reported [Al Jazeera report] that Bangladesh has itself seen at least four other deadly attacks since the beginning of 2015. Last year Bangladeshi investigators moved the government [JURIST report] to ban JI, the country's largest Islamist party, after evidence emerged indicating that JI formed armed groups to assist Pakistani forces in the commission of atrocities. In February the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] JI leader Abdus Subhan to death.