Bangladeshi girl, 14, dies after receiving 100 lashes
Four arrested and another 14 hunted by police, accused of taking part in lashing ordered by village court
by Fariha Karim in Dhaka
Four people have been arrested in Bangladesh after the death of a 14-year-old girl who was given 100 lashes on the orders of a village cleric. [see related article below]
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.
Shilpi has now been arrested on suspicion of murder alongside 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 yesterday in her family graveyard in Naria, Shariatpur, about 40 miles south of the capital, Dhaka.
Police said Shilpi 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, according to Assistant Superintendent Talebur Rahman. 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 said by police to be on the run.
The case has sent shockwaves around Bangladesh, where punishments in the name of fatwa – a religious edict – have been outlawed since last year. Authorities were ordered by the high court to act to stop punishments, and told that a 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 organisation has travelled to the village. Its director of investigations, Nur Khan Liton, said: "This is an absolutely horrific crime. It shows that despite court judgments banning punishments in the name of fatwa, an aggressively religious group who are 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 Shilpi heard her cries, then came out and began beating her. Police do not accept this.
• This article was amended on 4 February 2011. The original gave the name of one of the arrested as Shilpi Begum, and Begum thereafter. In Bangladesh, Begum is a title that is roughly equivalent to Mrs and so should not have been mistaken as the woman's surname. This has been corrected.
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The Guardian - UK February 10, 2011
Bangladesh whipping case: three doctors investigated for claiming teenage girl had no signs of injury
Second autopsy on body of Hena Akhter, 14, found multiple wounds 'of a homicidal nature'
by Fariha Karim in Dhaka
Three doctors are being investigated by authorities in Bangladesh after they claimed to have found no signs of injury in the postmortem examination of a teenage girl who was whipped to death under a fatwa.
Hena Akhter, 14, died in hospital 11 days ago after she was sentenced to 101 lashes by village elders and clerics who alleged she had been having an affair with her married cousin.
After a postmortem at her district hospital, doctors in Shariatpur, around 60km south of the capital, Dhaka, said they could find no signs of injury.
But Hena's body was exhumed on Tuesday night on orders from the High Court, and a second autopsy concluded that she had died from internal bleeding and septicaemia caused by wounds "of a homicidal nature" on her scalp, abdomen, back, chest, arms and legs.
At the High Court, Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury ordered the ministry of health to investigate the three doctors who carried out the first postmortem on suspicion of medical negligence, raising the possibility that they had been pressed into suppressing signs of injuries. "There is a world of difference between these two reports," he told Shariatpur civil surgeon, Mohammad Sarwar. "Your postmortem report showed no injuries. The second one is full of injuries. If this is shown to the court, will anyone be punished? No. You are playing with the law and with people's lives."
Asked to explain how a girl who had been widely known to have been whipped to death was found with no injuries, Sarwar claimed it was because staff were "less experienced" than in Dhaka.
The court also heard how the hospital's residential medical officer, Dr Nirmal Chandra Das, had claimed Hena was suffering from convulsions due to hysteria.
Hena's death has provoked widespread outrage in Bangladesh, where punishments in the name of fatwa – a religious edict – were outlawed last July.
Police are treating the case as murder and have arrested six villagers, including a Muslim cleric. Mahbub Alam, 35, with whom Hena was alleged to have been having the affair, has also been arrested after nine days on the run. A court in Shariatpur has given police five days to question him.
Hena's family say that Mahbub attacked her the night before she was punished. They allege that his wife Shilpi then raised a complaint with the shalish – a makeshift village council – claiming that the two cousins had been having an affair.
The schoolgirl was given 40 to 50 lashes with a wet cloth twisted into a rope before she collapsed unconscious, her family said. Mahbub, who was sentenced to 201 lashes, managed to escape after four or five, according to Hena's sister.
Police officers who first responded to the case are now facing investigation by the inspector general of police after Hena's father, Darbesh Khan, told the court that they had failed to record claims Mahbub had raped Hena before attacking her. "My daughter was tied up, grabbed and raped," he said. "I told the policeman that."
Justice Chowdhury ordered the religious affairs ministry to end funding for madrasas and mosques that issue fatwas, so that "no fatwa can ever take place in this republic again", along with fresh demands for the information ministry to circulate guidelines stating that punishments in the name of fatwa are illegal.
Although punishments under fatwa were outlawed in July, Hena's case is the second known to have taken place since then. Last December, a woman died after being whipped 40 times after she was accused by a village court of having an affair with her stepson.
The latest to be detained in connection with the incident is Idris Ali, who was arrested as he left the courtroom following orders to attend the hearing. He is said to have been a member of the panel that issued the punishment.
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