Briton held for Bangladesh blogger murders 'innocent': family

Briton held for Bangladesh blogger murders 'innocent': family
The family of Touhidur Rahman claims that he suffers from a mental illness.
PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA - The family of a Bangladeshi-origin British citizen arrested over the murders of two atheist bloggers insisted Wednesday he was innocent, adding that he suffers from a mental illness.

Bangladesh's elite security force arrested Touhidur Rahman and two others on Tuesday, accusing them of being members of an Islamic group banned in May over a series of gruesome killings of bloggers.

On Wednesday a court in Dhaka remanded all three in custody for seven days to allow police more time to question them over the machete murders of bloggers Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das.

"Only Rahman sought bail through his lawyer but his plea was rejected," prosecutor Abdullah Abu told AFP.

Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion has accused the 58-year-old of being the "main planner" of the attacks and a "financier" of the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team which is led by a jailed cleric.

But Rahman's sister Nasera Begum said her brother has not committed any crimes since returning in 2013 to Bangladesh from the UK, where he lived and worked for more than 20 years.

"Like other members of our family, he is a devout Muslim. He did not commit any crimes as far as I know. He is also very sick. He suffers from bipolar," Begum told AFP.

"He was treated in England and is now being treated by a mental health specialist in Dhaka," she said. "And the last one or two years he has been too ill to do any job."

She also said her unmarried brother was initially picked up by detectives several months ago.

Four secular bloggers have been hacked to death in Muslim-majority Bangladesh since the start of the year, sparking an international outcry and protests by mainly secular activists in the capital.

Roy, a US citizen who was born in Bangladesh, was murdered in February by a gang wielding machetes in Dhaka. Das, 33, was killed in similar fashion as he headed to work in the northeastern city of Sylhet in May.

The government has vowed to hunt down the killers after facing accusations that too little was being done to stop such attacks.

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