By Courtney Dentch

A Springfield Gardens man was arrested last week in the slaying of an award-winning Bangladeshi photojournalist who was beaten to death just over the Brooklyn border.

Hardy Marston, 18, of 144-30 183rd St. in Springfield Gardens was charged with beating Mizanur Rahman, 37, with large wooden dowels Aug. 11 in the culmination of a string of race-related fights in the City Line area of Brooklyn, just over the border from Woodhaven, police said.

Police also arrested Rafael Santos, 27, of Brooklyn, and both were charged with murder, gang assault, and criminal possession of a weapon, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney said.

Rahman was returning from his restaurant job at 11:55 a.m. Aug. 11, when he encountered a group of Hispanic men at Liberty Avenue and Forbell Street, police said. Marston and Santos, who had allegedly fought with other Bangladeshi residents earlier that day, began beating Rahman with wooden dowels, police said. Officers who responded to the scene found a chair leg left lying next to Rahman’s body, police said.

Marston and Santos were arrested Aug. 14 and arraigned the next day, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney said.

The pair pleaded not guilty and were remanded into custody, and were scheduled to return to court Sept. 11, the spokesman said. The district attorney had not yet decided whether to charge the two under the state’s hate crimes statute, the spokesman said.

Although Rahman’s death has not yet been deemed a hate crime, there seems to be a pattern of attacks against Bangladeshis in the area, where a large number of Muslims live, said Morshed Alam, chairman of the New Americans Committee of the Democratic Organization of Queens County. The Bangladeshis share the neighborhood on the borough border with a Hispanic community, Alam said.

“It was bias related, what happened,” Alam said. “We are not happy about it because the charges are not enough. They should be charged with the hate crimes.”

Three other Bangladeshis were assaulted that night in escalating attacks, police said. Two hours before Rahman was killed, a Bangladeshi delivery boy rode his bike over the foot of a Hispanic teen, sparking a fist fight. The Hispanic teen left but returned with his friends and fought with a group of Bangladeshi youths, police said.

Later on Forbell Street, the group of Hispanic men fought with three Bangladeshi men who had not been involved in the earlier incidents, police said. The scuffle resulted in some injuries, including a broken nose, a broken arm, and several cuts, police said.

Marston and Santos were part of that fight and ran into Rahman after it broke up, police said.

Alam said the police should have done more to prevent Rahman’s death since the earlier attacks were reported to the authorities.

“There is a tension going on with the Hispanic community,” he said, but added that “it’s a couple of people are doing this. “We shouldn’t blame the community.”

The Bangladeshi community have held several rallies since Rahman’s death, including one Sunday in Ozone Park, in a bid to ease the tensions between the communities, Alam said. The community is also working with police commanders and city council members to open a dialogue with leaders of the Hispanic community, he said.

Rahman, whose body was sent back to his wife and son in Bangladesh Aug. 13, won acclaim in his homeland in 1987 for a photograph of police killing a man during a pro-democracy rally.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138

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