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Six men sentenced to death for brutal killing of LGBTQ rights activist in Bangladesh

Xulhaz Mannan (pictured) was hacked to death in a machete attack in 2016.

By Jamie Tabberer

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: LGBTQ activist Xulhaz Mannan was murdered in 2016 (US Embassy in Bangladesh) 

Six men have been sentenced to death in Dhaka, Bangladesh for the killing of LGBTQ activist Xulhaz Mannan.

Mannan had started LGBTQ magazine Roopbaan before being hacked to death alongside his friend Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy in a machete attack on 25 April 2016. The group reportedly entered Mannan’s flat posing as couriers. 

Mannan, an employee of the United States embassy, had previously tried to organise an LGBTQ Pride event, but it was cancelled by police amidst threats of violence.

“They wanted to prevent them from practicing their freedom”

Announcing the sentences yesterday, a Dhaka antiterrorism tribunal rep said [as per NYT]: “They decided to slay the victims for their involvement in gay rights’ activism.

“All the convicts had the same intention. They wanted to prevent them from practicing their freedom and create fear among the other people from expressing their opinion.”

According to the publication, the six convicted were members of Ansar al-Islam, a banned militant group reportedly connected to Al Qaeda. Four of the men are in custody, while two are on the run.

Golam Sharuar Khan Zakir, public prosecutor in the case, commented: “This verdict is a strong message for the militant group who are operational in Bangladesh. We are happy with the verdict. We believe that justice for Xulhaz and Tonoy is served.”

Gay sex is illegal in Bangladesh. According to Section 377 of the Bangladeshi Penal Code: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description that is, hard labour or simple for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

In 2018, Mannan and Tonoy’s friend Mazharul Islam was handed an Attitude Pride Award for his fight for justice after their murders, including staging a protest outside the Bangladesh High Commission.

“We are fighting for justice for our friends,” he told us at the time. “They sacrificed their loves so if I can do something from here, why not?”

“They are heroes, and heroes never die,” Islam added.