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Monthly Archives: April 2017

Bangladesh High Court Upholds Death for 2 in Blogger Killing

DELHI, INDIA � Bangladesh's High Court on Sunday confirmed the death penalty for two people tied to a banned Islamist militant group for the killing of an atheist blogger critical of radical Islam.

The court also upheld jail sentences for six others after appeals were filed challenging the verdicts handed down by a trial court in 2015.

Sunday's decision involves the killing of Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was hacked to death in 2013. Haider had campaigned for banning the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which opposed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971.

One of the defendants was Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani, the leader of the Ansarullah Bangla Team, and the rest were university students inspired by his sermons.

During the trial, the students said that Rahmani incited them to kill Haider in sermons in which he said all atheist bloggers should be killed to protect Islam.

The two North South University students who received the death sentences included Faisal bin Nayeem, who the court said hacked Haider with meat cleavers in front of his house in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital. Another was tried in absentia. The others received prison sentences ranging from three years to life. Rahmani was sentenced to five years.

The defendants can appeal Sunday's decision to the Supreme Court.

The High Court said there was no scope to reduce the sentences given the gravity of the crimes.

Prosecutors had earlier said the student who was sentenced to death in absentia and was accused of planning the attack is a member of Jamaat-e-Islami's student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, but the party denied involvement in the killing.

Bangladesh in recent years has experienced a surge of attacks by radical Islamists targeting atheist bloggers and writers, foreigners and members of minority groups.

Source: Voice of America

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Over 200 Taliban militants join peace process in northern Afghanistan

Kabul (IINA) � More than 200 Taliban militants have joined the peace process in northern Balkh province of Afghanistan, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported quoting the Afghan Khaama Press (KP).

According to the local government officials, the militants were previously conducting insurgency against the government and security forces in the vicinity of Alburz Mountains in favor of the Taliban group. The militants also handed over various weapons, ammunition and other military kits with them.

The provincial government media office said the militants joined peace process thanks to the efforts made by the government officials and security institutions in the province.

Balkh is among the relatively calm provinces in the north of Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militant groups have been attempting to destabilize the province. Numerous incidents have taken place in the province including some of its key cities during the recent months.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

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More Than 10,000 Chinese Worship Legendary Ancestor in Zhengzhou

ZHENGZHOU, China, Mar. 31, 2017 /Xinhua-AsiaNet/- More than 10,000 Chinese from over 40 countries and regions attended a grand  worshipping ceremony on Thursday to mark the nation’s legendary ancestor  Huangdi, or the Yellow Emperor, local portal zynews reported. This Thursday is March 3 on the Chinese lunar calendar which was believed to be  the birthday […]

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Leader of Pakistani Taliban Urges Followers to Kill ‘Blasphemers’

ISLAMABAD � A fugitive anti-state Pakistani extremist leader has asked followers to find and execute blasphemers in the country for insulting Islam and its Prophet Muhammad.

In a video message sent Saturday to VOA and other media outlets, Fazlullah Khurasani, who heads the militant Tehrike-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), issued the threat without identifying the alleged blasphemers.

TTP, which is commonly referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, has been waging deadly attacks for years against the state, killing tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including security forces.

It is the right time to seek them out and finish them. Our fighters are looking for them and we also need youth in schools and colleges, or wherever they are to take revenge and punish them for insulting our Prophet Muhammad, Khurasani said.

Flanked by other commanders and masked security guards, the militant leader spoke in native Pashto with subtitling in Urdu, Pakistan's national language.

It was not immediately known where Khurasani recorded his message because Pakistani authorities maintain that he and his fighters have taken refuge in neighboring Afghanistan after fleeing military operations on the Pakistan side of the border separating the two countries.

Authorities already under fire

The militant threat comes at a time when authorities in Pakistan already are under fire for taking certain actions that critics believe are fueling religious intolerance and extremist behavior in the society.

Five social media bloggers had been briefly detained, allegedly by Pakistani security agencies, for placing blasphemous content online, though the government has denied its involvement.

The young men re-emerged and returned to their families last month after about four weeks and before fleeing Pakistan.

Some of the bloggers have since alleged through media interviews they were taken away by state institutions for being critical of the powerful military and refuted blasphemy charges as fabricated.

On Friday, the chief judge of the high court in Islamabad instructed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to continue with its probe into online blasphemous content and arrange for bringing the five bloggers back to Pakistan in case any evidence was found against them.

Anti-blasphemy crackdown

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered authorities last month to crack down on suspects in Pakistan involved in posting blasphemous material on social media.

The government also has approached Facebook and Twitter to seek their assistance in discouraging Pakistanis from indulging in such offensive activities from abroad.

Critics, however, see the crackdown as an attempt to deter political descent in the name of religion, and they fear it is encouraging Islamist militants.

Separately, an anti-terrorism court in the Pakistani capital last week turned three online bloggers into the custody of the FIA so it can investigate blasphemy charges against them and determine whether they should be formally tried and punished.

Rights activists have accused successive governments of using the country's blasphemy laws to deter political opponents and media commentators. The laws carry severe punishments, including the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

In its 2016 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom observed that for years, the Pakistani government has failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence,

USCIRF is aware of nearly 40 individuals currently sentenced to death or serving life sentences for blasphemy in Pakistan, it read.

Source: Voice of America

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