A Feni court yesterday handed down death sentence to all the 16 accused, including a sacked madrasa principal and two expelled local Awami League leaders, over the murder of madrasa student Nusrat Jahan Rafi in April, an incident that shocked the entire nation.
Mamunur Rashid, the judge of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal in Feni, also fined the convicts Tk 1 lakh each and ordered the district magistrate to give the money to the victim’s parents.
The accused burnt Nusrat to death by pouring kerosene on her in a planned way and they deserved exemplary and harshest punishment, the judge said while delivering the judgment in a packed courtroom.
Sacked madrasa principal Siraj Ud Doula, the prime accused, was awarded capital punishment for giving the order to kill Nusrat while the others were given death penalty for plotting and committing the murder.
The sacked principal of Sonagazi Islamia Fazil Madrasa is also facing another case for sexually harassing Nusrat, who was an Alim student at the madrasa.
All the convicts were in the dock when the judge read out the summary of the 173-page judgment in the much-talked-about murder case.
The convicts include Siraj, two teachers and 11 students of the madrasa, and two expelled AL leaders, who were members of the madrasa governing body.
Nusrat’s father and brother, who were present in the courtroom, expressed satisfaction over the verdict.
The 19-year-old lost her battle for life on April 10, four days after she was set afire. She was sexually harassed by the then principal Siraj on March 27. Her mother filed a case against Siraj, who was later arrested and sent to jail.
Following Siraj’s arrest, his cohorts threatened Nusrat’s family with dire consequences unless they withdrew the case. But the family didn’t give in.
On April 6, Nusrat was set on fire when she went to the madrasa to sit for Alim exams. She was taken to the rooftop of the madrasa building where four people wearing veils and niqab asked her to withdraw the case.
When she refused, they tied her legs and hands with scarfs, poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze.
The perpetrators wanted to make it look like a suicide. But their plan failed as Nusrat was rescued after they fled the scene.
With 80 percent burns, she was admitted to the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
People in different parts of the country took to the streets, seeking exemplary punishment to the killers.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had asked the law enforcement agencies to take prompt steps to bring the perpetrators to book.
The AL expelled its two local leaders -- Sonagazi upazila AL president Ruhul Amin and acting general secretary of Sonagazi municipality AL unit Maksud Alam.
SM Jahangir Alam Sarkar, the then superintendent of police in Feni, was also closed for negligence in performing duties regarding the incident.
Moazzem Hossain, officer-in-charge of Sonagazi Model Police Station, was also withdrawn after the victim’s family alleged that they were not getting cooperation from him.
He was later sued for recording Nusrat’s statement on his phone without her consent and circulating the clip on the social media.
Yesterday, the tribunal rebuked Moazzem for negligence in performing duties. It lauded the role of the media.
On September 30, the tribunal set yesterday for delivering its judgment after 61 days of proceedings -- a considerably short period for completing trial in such cases.
Around 250 law enforcers were deployed in and around the court yesterday.
A large number of people gathered on the court premises since morning. But the court allowed only the lawyers, journalists and victim’s family members inside the building.
All the accused were brought to the court in a prison van around 11:00am. The judge started reading out the judgement at 11:05am and finishedwithin 13 minutes.
Some of the convicts looked arrogant and a few others shouted at the judge while he was delivering the verdict.
Later, some of them broke into tears while being taken to jail in a prison van.
The convicts will get the chance to file appeal with the High Court within seven days. And if they are not happy with the HC verdict, they will have scope to lodge appeal with the Supreme Court.
Talking to reporters, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam termed the verdict a milestone, reports UNB.
FAMILY WANTS QUICK EXECUTION
In his immediate reaction, Nusrat’s father AK Musa said, “We are satisfied with the verdict. We want quick execution of the verdict.”
He demanded that the authorities beef up security for his family, alleging that the family members of the accused threatened them on the court premises.
Nusrat’s mother Shirin Akhter and brother Mahmudul Hasan, also the complainant of the murder case, said they were grateful to the PM and that they were willing to meet her.
Public Prosecutor Hafez Ahmad said the verdict proved that an offender gets punished no matter how powerful he or she is.
Terming the verdict unexpected, Gias Uddin Nannu, who defended five of the accused, said they will challenge the verdict at the High Court and hope all the convicts will be acquitted.
Moments after he talked to journalists, some locals chased him. But police intervened and took him to safety.
The convicts include madrasa teachers Abdul Kader and Afsar Uddin; and madrasa students Saifur Rahman Mohammad Zubayer, Javed Hossain alias Sakhawat Hossain, Kamrunnahar Moni, Umme Sultana Poppy, Abdur Rahim Sharif, Iftekhar Uddin Rana, Imran Hossain Mamun, Mohiuddin Shakil, Mohammad Shamim, Nuruddin, and Shahadat Hossain Shamim.