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Bangladesh Police Charge 16 Suspects in Student’s Fiery Death

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2019-05-29
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Members of Transparency International Bangladesh form a human chain in Dhaka to protest the killing of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, April 21, 2019.
Members of Transparency International Bangladesh form a human chain in Dhaka to protest the killing of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, April 21, 2019.
AFP

Updated at 2:53 p.m. ET on 2019-06-10

Bangladeshi police charged 16 suspects Wednesday for their alleged roles in the murder of a madrassa student, whose killers doused her with kerosene and set her on fire after she accused the Islamic school’s principal of sexual assault.

The school head who allegedly ordered the April 6 attack on Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 18, and five suspects who allegedly carried out the attack were among the names listed on the charge-sheet in the killing that shocked people in Bangladesh.

“We have brought charges against 16 accused persons in the charge-sheet,” Mohammad Iqbal, special superintendent of the national Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI), told a press conference on Wednesday.

“We have brought murder charges in line” under a 2000 law to prevent violence and sexual abuse against women and children, he said.

The bureau filed the 808-charge sheet, which detailed the grisly murder, with a magistrates’ court in southeastern Feni district, where Rafi was killed on the campus of the religious school she attended.

The court will determine a start date for the trial, said Hafez Ahmed, the public prosecutor in Feni, adding that the suspects would need legal representation.

“The lawyers of Feni have decided that none will defend the killers of Nusrat. In that case, the government will provide legal assistance to the defendants,” he told BenarNews.

Rafi’s family wants the people who killed her to face the ultimate punishment.

“We are happy that the charge sheet has been filed early, but we want to see their speedy trial. We want them executed,” Rafi’s brother, Mahmudul Hasan Noman told BenarNews. He had taken her to school on the day she was attacked, and rushed her to hospital for treatment afterward.

The PBI will recommend that the 16 suspects, who are all in custody, face the death penalty if found guilty, Mohammad Iqbal told Agence France-Presse.

PBI officials explained that the charge sheet names 16 people who allegedly had varying roles in connection with the killing, including Siraj Ud Doula, the principal of the Sonagazi Islamia Senior Fazil Madrassa in Bangladesh’s Chittagong division.

Twelve of the suspects had already made confessional statements before a magistrate, PBI chief Banaj Kumar Majumdar said on Tuesday, according to BSS, the national news agency.

The attack left Rafi with burns over 80 percent of her body. As her brother rode with her in an ambulance to a hospital in Dhaka, he recorded her statement on his mobile phone.

“I will protest ’til my last breath,” she could be heard saying in the audio clip shared on social media. “I will complain to the prime minister.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina vowed that Rafi would get the best possible care and would be flown to Singapore for special treatment. Rafi’s injuries were so severe that she could not travel abroad.

Rafi died on April 10.

The Bangladesh Police Bureau of Investigation released this sketch as part of a series showing the April 6 fatal attack on Nusrat Jahan Rafi. [Courtesy PBI]
The Bangladesh Police Bureau of Investigation released this sketch as part of a series showing the April 6 fatal attack on Nusrat Jahan Rafi. [Courtesy PBI]

The attack

The charge sheet alleges that Doula ordered that Rafi be killed if she failed to withdraw the complaint against him. A female student allegedly intimidated Rafi in an effort to get her drop the charges that he had sexually assaulted her.

According to the account given by Rafi to her relatives, she was lured onto to the roof of the madrassa on April 6, when she went to the school to sit for exams.

Five students attacked Rafi on the roof, the charge sheet said.

One of them muzzled Rafi and pulled her hands behind her back. Other students took her scarf, tore it into two pieces and used it to tie her legs, according to the charge sheet as explained by PBI officials.

The suspects all pushed Rafi down and one gagged and tried to strangle her, the charging documents alleged. One suspect grabbed a bag of kerosene and doused her before another lit a match and set her on fire.

The two female students and a male student, who were among those who attacked Rafi, then returned to the exam room.

“After the attack, the accused persons dispersed and started circulating that Rafi committed suicide,” said the charge sheet. “The investigation determined 16 persons were involved in the killing, planning, abetting and aiding the murder.”

The maximum punishment under these sections is capital punishment, said Prokash Ranjan Biswas, a practicing lawyer and Dhaka bar member.

“The Rafi murder is a sensational case. We hope the offenders will get maximum punishment, though it is not possible to predict a verdict,” he told BenarNews.

The charge sheet was filed just two days after the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal issued an arrest warrant against the police officer who allegedly taped Rafi’s original complaint against Doula without her consent on March 27, according to Bangladesh media.

Moazzem Hossain, the former officer-in-charge at the Sonagazi police station, allegedly asked Rafi offensive questions during the interview.

The interview ended up on social media.

An earlier version of this story stated that four students allegedly attacked Rafi on the madrasa roof. The correct number is five.

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