Bangladesh: Court awards death penalty to 16 who set student on fire

A Bangladesh court sentenced 16 people to death for the murder of a student set on fire after accusing her teacher of sexual harassment.

19-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi, died in April in Feni which is a small town 160 kilometers out of capital Dhaka. The headteacher Nusrat had accused of harassment and two female classmates were among those convicted.

Her murder shocked Bangladesh at that time and it also led to series of protests demanding justice for Nusrat.

The trial which began a year ago concluded, making it one of the fastest in the country. Prosecutor Hafez Ahmed speaking to reporters after the court order said “that nobody will get away with murder in Bangladesh”.

Lawyers of those convicted will appeal against the court verdict.

The investigation into Nusrat’s death revealed a conspiracy to silence her which included her own classmates and a number of powerful men from within the community.

Three teachers, including the headmaster, Siraj Ud Doula, who police say ordered the killing from prison after he was arrested under suspicion of harassment, were found guilty by the court on Thursday. Another two of the defendants convicted, Ruhul Amin and Maksud Alam, were local leaders of the ruling Awami League party.

A number of local police were found to have collaborated with those convicted in spreading false information that Nusrat had committed suicide. The officers were not among those tried for Nusrat’s murder.

Nusrat’s family, who supported her decision to go to police back in March, have since been given police protection. Her brother Mahmudul Hasan Noman said they were still in fear for their lives.

However, the family welcomed the verdict, asking for the sentence to be carried out quickly. In Bangladesh, the death penalty is carried out by hanging.

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