Suspect arrested over murders of Bangladesh LGBT activists in 2016

Bangladeshi LGBT+ activist Xulhaz Mannan

Police in Bangladesh have reportedly arrested one of the main suspects involved in the murders of LGBT+ activists Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy.

Mannan, the founder of Roopbaan, the country’s first LGBT+ magazine, and Tonoy, the publication’s general secretary, were hacked to death by a group of men using machetes in 2016.

Bangladeshi police have now revealed that they believe seven members of extremist group Ansarullah Bangla Team were involved in the killings, reports Bangladeshi news website 

Authorities have arrested a 25-year-old man called Asadullah, a member of the militant organisation, who was allegedly a key figure behind the murders.

Monirul Islam, chief of Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit, informed journalists of the arrest at a press conference on Wednesday (January 16).

Three other men arrested over murders of Bangladeshi LGBT+ activists

According to Amnesty International, despite evidence including CCTV footage and eye witness testimonies, nobody has ever been charged for the murders.

Three other men have been arrested in connection with the murders of Mannan and Tonoy.

The three men reportedly provided confessional testimonies in court over the murders.

“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.”

—A Bangladeshi LGBT+ activist speaking to PinkNews in October

In October, LGBT+ activists in Bangladesh spoke to PinkNews about how the country’s queer community has “undergone a period of paralysing shock and fear” following the deaths of Mannan and Tonoy.

Bangladesh’s LGBT+ community in state of “paralysing fear”

Since the murders, dozens of LGBT+ rights campaigners have fled the country in fear of their safety.

And the persecution of LGBT+ people by Bangladeshi authorities has continued.

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.

Bangladesh activist Xulhaz Mannan

Mannan attending a Bengali New Year rally organised by a Bangladesh LGBT society in Dhaka. (STR/AFP/Getty)

And, in January 2018, in a report on the plight of trans men in the country, the Human Rights Campaign said that LGBT+ people in Bangladesh “face a climate of hostility.”

Roopbaan, meanwhile, ceased publication after Mannan and Tonoy’s deaths.

One activist told PinkNews in October that, although homosexuality has been legalised in neighbouring India, it would take years before gay sex is allowed in Bangladesh.

“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.”