An anti-terrorism tribunal has sentenced to death eight operatives of banned militant outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) for killing blogger and publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan in 2015.
Each accused has also been fined Tk50,000.
In the verdict, the court observed that the militants had attacked bloggers, writers, and publishers as part of their campaign to silence freethinkers, and that the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment for the heinous murder.
In her immediate reaction, Dipan's wife Razia Rahman expressed satisfaction over the verdict and demanded its quick execution.
Speaking to journalists, Public Prosecutor Golam Sarwar Zakir said that the state was satisfied with the verdict.
In his reaction, defence lawyer ABM Khairul Islam said that they would appeal against the verdict with the High Court.
Judge Mojibur Rahman of the Dhaka Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal pronounced the verdict on Wednesday.
In the observation, he said that ABT members not on trial would be encouraged to commit the same crime if Dipan's assassins were not held accountable.
The convicts are the militant outfit's top commander and sacked army major Syed Ziaul Haque Zia, Moinul Hasan Shamim, Abdur Sabur Samad, Khairul Islam, Abu Siddique Sohel, Mozammel Hussain, Sheikh Abdullah, and Akram Hossain, of whom Zia and Akram are still on the run.
The remaining six, detained in jail, were produced before the tribunal during the verdict.
In the ruling, the tribunal also observed that the accused, in their capacity as ABT members, had participated in the assassination attempt on Dipan, for which they should be given the same punishment.
The court added that this was an exemplary punishment and that justice had been served.
The verdict observation further stated that bereaved family members of the victim will now get some sense of closure. At the same time, the death sentence will deter others from committing such heinous crimes in future.
According to the verdict, Dipan was murdered for publishing a book by slain writer-blogger Abhijit Roy, as part of the war against freethinkers.
The court further observed that the assassins' chief intent was to compromise public security by creating panic in the minds of the public, thereby restricting the freedom of expression.
The goal of the Ansarullah Bangla Team was to destroy the democratic and non-communal character of the state, it further said.
On 24 January, the tribunal had set Wednesday for delivering the verdict.
Public Prosecutor Advocate Golam Sarwar Zakir presented the arguments of the state on 16 January and demanded the death penalty for the eight accused.
On 4 January, six accused, who were detained behind bars, pleaded not guilty in court, and sought justice.
On 15 November 2018, the investigation officer of the case submitted the charge sheet against the eight suspects to the court of the Dhaka chief metropolitan magistrate.
Dipan, the proprietor of a publishing company called Jagriti Prokashani, was hacked to death inside his office at Aziz Super Market in Dhaka on 31 October 2015.
Dipan's company had published a book written by writer-blogger Avijit Roy, who had been murdered on the campus of Dhaka University eight months prior.
On 2 November 2015, Dipan's widow filed a murder case at Shahbagh police station against unidentified assailants.