Sixteen people sentenced to death for burning teen girl alive
FENI, BANGLADESH Sixteen people were sentenced to death yesterday for burning alive a Bangladeshi teenager who refused to withdraw sexual assault charges against her head teacher.
The case highlights what activists say is a culture of impunity over sexual violence in the South Asian country, as well as abuse that is rife in around 20,000 seminaries that educate mostly poor and rural students.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused in kerosene and set on fire on April 6 after she made a sexual harassment complaint against the principal of her rural Islamic seminary.
The head teacher, who a court in the southern coastal town of Feni found had ordered the brutal killing from jail after being arrested over the harassment claim, was among those sentenced to death.
Others included activists from the ruling Awami League political party and some students - including two females - who either participated in the killing or guarded the gates of the seminary while it took place.
"The verdict proves that nobody will get away with murder in Bangladesh. We have the rule of law," prosecutor Hafez Ahmed said.
Nusrat was lured to the rooftop of the seminary where her attackers pressed her to withdraw the complaint.
When she refused, she was tied up, doused in kerosene and set on fire. She suffered burns to 80 per cent of her body and died in hospital four days later.
'NOT A BIG DEAL'
Nusrat had gone to police in late March to report the sexual harassment, and a leaked video showed the local station chief registering her complaint but dismissing it as "not a big deal".
Police said the attackers' plan had been to pass off her death as suicide, but it failed after Nusrat managed to stagger down the stairs while still engulfed in flames.
Ms Maleka Banu, head of a woman's rights group, said: "It is an exemplary punishment. We hope it will send a serious message to the perpetrators and collaborators of sexual violence." - AFP