Sat, Feb 05, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Four arrested after Bangladeshi girl dies from beating

The Guardian, DHAKA

Four people have been arrested in Bangladesh after the death of a 14-year-old girl who was sentenced to be given 100 lashes on the orders of a village cleric.

Mosammet Hena died in hospital on Sunday after being beaten with a bamboo cane for allegedly having an illicit relationship with a married cousin. A complaint had been made against her by the man’s wife, Shilpi Begum, at a makeshift village court, or shalish, presided over by senior community members.

Begum has now been arrested on suspicion of murder, along with three villagers, including imam Mofiz Uddin, who allegedly issued the edict. Another 14 villagers who are accused of taking part in the public lashing, or of being complicit in the girl’s murder by failing to prevent her from being whipped, are still being hunted by police.

“What sort of justice is this? My daughter has been beaten to death in the name of justice,” Mosammet’s father, Dorbesh Khan, 60, told the BBC.

Mosammet was buried on Wednesday in her family graveyard in Naria, Shariatpur, about 60km south of the capital, Dhaka.

Police said Begum told the shalish she had seen Mosammet speaking to her husband, Mahbub, 40, near their home. The shalish ruled that Mosammet and Mahbub should each be flogged 100 times, Assistant Superintendent Talebur Rahman said.

Mosammet was dragged inside a house by about 20 to 25 people, including four women. She collapsed unconscious halfway through and was taken to hospital, where she died a week later. Mahbub, who was beaten by his father, is on the run, police said.

The case has sent shockwaves around Bangladesh, where punishments in the name of fatwa were outlawed last year. Authorities were ordered by the high court to act to stop punishments and told that failure to do so breached their constitutional duties.

Since Mosammet’s death, lawyers have filed a case against the government at the court, and a team of investigators from a human rights organization has traveled to the village.

“This is an absolutely horrific crime,” director of investigations Nur Khan Liton said. “It shows that despite court judgments banning punishments in the name of fatwa, an aggressively religious group who is capable of committing such barbaric crimes of torture against women are still present in our society.”

Local media have reported that Mosammet was raped by Mahbub and Begum heard her cries, then came out and began beating her.

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