Protesters with coffins symbolising
Protesters in Dhaka with coffins symbolising each of the bloggers killed in Bangladesh Getty

Two students have been sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of a secularist blogger in Bangladesh.

Faisal bin Nayem and Rezwanul Azad Rana were found guilty on Thursday (31 December) of murdering Ahmed Rajib Haider, a blogger and activist who wrote under the pen name Thaba Baba.

Haider was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in February 2013 near his home in Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

It was one of a series of murders targeting atheist and secularist bloggers, with five further killings in 2015. There have been mass protests in the wake of the murders, and calls for the government to do more to protect writers and intellectuals. Radical Islamist groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks.

One of the two students, who attends one of the country's top universities, was sentenced in absentia and is currently on the run.

Six other people who played roles in Haider's killing were sentenced to varying jail terms, with 23-year-old Maksudul Hasan handed a life sentence. Among those imprisoned was Mufti Jashimuddin Rahmani, a senior figure in the Ansarullah Bangla Team Islamist group, who was given a five year sentence.

Imran Sarkar, the head of the Blogger and Online Activists Network, an advocacy group in Bangladesh, said the sentences were too lenient, and the group had boycotted court proceedings.

"All of the accused are self-declared killers. There should have been capital punishment on all of them," he told CNN.

"This is completely unacceptable."

A number of foreigners have been killed in Bangladesh in recent months, with terrorist group Isis claiming responsibility for the attacks amid an upsurge in Islamist violence.