16 given death sentence for Nusrat Jahan’s murder

A fast-track court in Bangladesh on Thursday sentenced 16 people, including a former principal of a madrasa (Islamic seminary) to death for the murder of a student, Nusrat Jahan Rafi, local reports say.

A judge of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal in the south-eastern city of Feni also imposed a fine of $1,158 on each of those sentenced.

After the court ruling, the 16 were sent back to the Feni Central Jail. The court premises witnessed chaotic scenes as they shouted and screamed in protest against the court’s ruling before being driven away in a police van.

Among those awarded death sentence were former principal Siraj Ud Doula and Awami League party leader Ruhul Amin.

Hafez Ahmed, a public prosecutor, welcomed the court verdict.

Defence lawyers said they would appeal the ruling in the high court.

Nusrat, 19, a student of Sonagazi Senior Fazil Madrasa, was sexually harassed by Doula on March 27 this year.

Her mother and brother filed a complaint with police against Siraj who was later arrested and sent to jail.

Since Doula’s arrest, his friends had been threatening Nusrat’s family with dire consequences if they did not withdraw the case against him.

Nusrat’s family, however, ignored their threats and the girl continued her studies at the madrasa.

On April 6, 15 of Doula’s associates entered the examination hall of the madrasa, took Nusrat to the roof of the school building, doused her in kerosene and set her on fire.

Nusrat suffered severe burns and she died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on April 10.

The incident sparked national outrage.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met the victim’s family and promised them that her killers would be brought to justice.

The government then issued an order to schools to set up committees to prevent sexual abuse.

Late in May, the Police Bureau of Investigation charged the 16 with murder.

Some 20,000 seminaries operate in Bangladesh providing education to poor students.