Feni court sentences 16 to death for Nusrat murder

A Feni court has sentenced 16 people to death in a case over the murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, the girl who was torched to death after protesting against sexual abuse by the principal of a madrasa.

Feni Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 24 Oct 2019, 05:28 AM
Updated : 24 Oct 2019, 09:44 PM

SM Siraj-Ud-Doula, the madrasa principal who orchestrated the attack, is among those sentenced to death.

Feni Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal Judge Mamunur Rashid handed down the verdict on Thursday, seven months into the incident.

Nusrat, a student of Sonagazi Islamia Fazil Madrasa, was set on fire by the perpetrators on Apr 6 for not withdrawing a sexual assault case against Siraj.

The 18-year-old girl died on Apr 10, sending a shockwave across Bangladesh triggering protests against oppression of women and girls.

All the convicts were present in the court.

Relatives of the accused mourn after they were given death sentences in a murder case in Feni, Bangladesh, Oct 24, 2019. REUTERS

Reacting to the ‘exemplary’ judgment, M Shahjahan Saju, the counsel for the plaintiffs, said the verdict – which came after a hearing spanning 62 working days – is ‘unprecedented’ in the context of Bangladesh.

Nusrat’s family expressed satisfaction with the verdict and called for its swift implementation while the lawyers for the defendants said they would challenge the decision in a higher court.

“We got the outcome we were hoping for. We have been professional and diligent in our investigation. There’s a Nusrat in every family and that’s what spurred us on,” said PBI chief Banoj Kumar Mazumder, the investigation officer in the case.

Some of the defence counsels alleged injustice and said they will challenge the verdict in the High court.

Siraj arrived in court smiling but went back to jail crying after hearing the verdict.    

Some of the 15 other convicts and their relatives also cried. They hurled abuse at Nusrat’s family and expressed anger at the judge.

The verdict notes the incident has cast a shadow over the Sonagazi Islamia Fazil Madrassa, a prominent educational institution in the district, and has 'shaken the conscience of the world'

"Nusrat Jahan Rafi's shining sacrifice to protect the dignity of womanhood makes her immortal. She will live on as an inspiration," continued the judge.

"At the same time, the defendants' actions certainly bring shame on humanity. As such, they are deserving of an exemplarily harsh punishment."

Women rights activists hailed the verdict as “historic” and advised the state to be alert so that the judgment is not reversed or sentences commuted on appeal.

They also demanded such fast trial after speeding up investigations into cases like murders of Sohagi Jahan Tonu and Mahmuda Akter Mitu three years ago.

Nusrat had been tricked onto the roof of the madrasa where the perpetrators set her on fire. Her brother Mahmudul Hasan Noman filed a case on the incident on Apr 8 naming eight people, including the principal as the main accused.

Nusrat died five days later in a Dhaka hospital. Her death turned the attempted murder into a murder case.

Police named eight other suspects in the charge-sheet. The 16 convicted of the murder are Siraj, Nur Uddin, Shahadat Hossain Shamim, councilor Maksud Alam, Saifur Rahman Mohammad Zobair, Shakhawat Hossain Jabed, Hafez Abdul Kader, Absar Uddin, Kamrun Nahar Moni, Umme Sultana Poppy, Abdur Rahim Sharif, Iftekhar Uddin Rana, Imran Hossain Mamun, Mohammad Shamim, Ruhul Amin, and Mohiuddin Shakil.

Police arrested Siraj, 55, on Mar 27 in a case that charges him with sexual harassment of Nusrat.

Before her death, Nusrat said she had gone to the madrasa on that day to sit the Alim exams, equivalent to HSC.

She rushed to the roof on hearing that Nishat, one of her friends who is a witness to a case on sexual harassment charges against the principal, was being beaten there, Nusrat said.

Four burqa-clad people, who had their faces covered by niqab and hands with gloves, poured kerosene on her and set her on fire when she refused to withdraw the sexual charges against Siraj, she added.

Earlier, citing confessional statements of other suspects, police said Nur Uddin met Siraj in jail on Apr 4 and plotted the arson attack with the others the following day.

Shamim, a senior student of the madrasa, got involved in the attack because Nusrat had earlier refused his proposal for a relationship, police said.

Besides Shamim, Nusrat’s classmates Zubair, Moni, Poppy and Jabed directly took part in the arson attack on the rooftop, according to the law enforcers.

Poppy, a niece of Siraj, called and followed Nusrat to the rooftop, Moni pinned the victim down to the rooftop by her neck while Jabed doused her with kerosene and set her alight with a matchstick, police said citing their statements.

Moni, a relative of Shamim, also admitted to buying the burqas and handing those over to him, according to police.

Shamim had worked for local ward councillor Maksud, who according to the charges, knew about the incident and funded the burqas and kerosene.