Eight men have been charged by police in Bangladesh for the 2016 murders of LGBT+ rights activists Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy.
Mannan and Tonoy were brutally hacked to death in an apartment in Bangladesh in 2016, but up until now, nobody had been charged in connection with the killings. Before his death, Mannan edited Bangladesh’s first LGBT+ magazine, Roopban, and Tonoy was the publication’s general secretary.
The police’s counter terrorism unit filed the charges against the eight men yesterday and claimed they were members of extremist group Ansar al Islam, according to Channel News Asia.
Police in Bangladesh said the men were murdered by local extremists
Deputy police commissioner Mohibul Islam Khan told AFP that four of the men have been arrested, but said the remaining four are still at large.
After the brutal murders in 2016, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility and said the men had been working to “promote homosexuality” in Bangladesh.
However, police in Bangladesh said that the murders had the hallmarks of local extremists, and denied that there was an international militant network operating in the country.
“The main reason for this publication is to promote love.”
– Xulhaz Mannan
Mannan and Tonoy were hacked to death in an apartment in Bangladesh in April of 2016. The killers were reported to have posed as couriers to gain access to the building.
Speaking at the launch of LGBT+ magazine in 2014, Mannan said it would be “a major leap forward” in the country.
“The main reason for this publication is to promote love,” he said.
“Promoting love and promoting the right to love. The audience for love is huge and that’s who this is for.”
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LGBT+ community in Bangladesh living with ‘paralysing shock and fear’ after murders
It was reported earlier this year that police in Bangladesh had arrested one of the suspects in the murder case.
At the time, they said they had identified seven people who they believed were involved in the killing.
In October, LGBT+ activists in Bangladesh spoke to PinkNews about how the country’s LGBT+ community has “undergone a period of paralysing shock and fear” following the deaths of Mannan and Tonoy.
Since the murders in 2016, dozens of LGBT+ rights campaigners have fled Bangladesh in fear for their safety.
In May 2017, the country’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) raided a “gay party” in Dhaka, arresting 28 men and accusing them of homosexuality.
‘There is still a lot of hate and ignorance’
One activist told PinkNews last October that homosexuality would not be legalised in Bangladesh for many years.
“Today, we are seeing more and more people in the new generation opening up to idea of gender and sexual fluidity,” they said.
“Despite this, there is still a lot of hate and ignorance among the general mass not only in terms of homosexuality but sexuality and sexual health in general.
“It will still be a long time until homosexuality is legalised in Bangladesh.”