DHAKA - A Bangladesh court on Wednesday ordered seven university students and a Muslim cleric to stand trial for the 2013 machete murder of an atheist blogger whom they claimed had defamed Islam.

Judge Ruhul Amin ordered the murder trial to start on April 21 for all eight, who face the death penalty if convicted of killing 35-year-old atheist blogger and architect Ahmed Rajib Haider.

The announcement of the trial came just weeks after American atheist blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death in the Bangladesh capital, a crime that triggered international outrage.

“The students were inspired by the Friday sermons of the cleric and carried out the attack on Haider because he was an atheist and he defamed Islam,” prosecutor Saiful Islam told AFP.

One of the eight, Rezwanul Azad Rana, 30, is on the run and police this month announced a reward of $6,400 for information leading to his arrest, Islam said.

The body of Haider, better known by his Bengali online identity Thaba Baba, was found with wounds to the head in what police say was an apparent attempt to behead him.