Headteacher, Students Who Set Girl On Fire Sentenced To Death

Sixteen men have been sentenced to death for killing a girl who refused to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint against her headteacher.

The killers poured kerosene over 18-year-old Nusrat Jahan and set her on fire on the roof of her school in April.

She died five days later in Dhaka hospital following the horrific attack.

The teenager had claimed the head of her religious school in Feni, Bangladesh had attempted to rape her.

Police said in their charge-sheet the murder was carried out on the orders of the principal Siraj-Ud-Doula.

All 16 men had been on trial following the death of Nusrat on Wednesday, April 10, which sparked protests across the country against the oppression of women and girls.

The case took 62 days and was overseen by Feni Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal Judge Mamunur Rashid.

The court was told Nusrat had gone to the school to sit her exams.

She heard one of the witnesses to her sexual assault had been taken to the roof to be beaten, so she rushed there to help.

Four people with their faces covered then held her and poured the kerosene on her, and when she again refused to withdraw her complaint, she was set alight.

Shahadat Hossain Shamim, a senior student, got involved in the attack because Nusrat had earlier refused his proposal for a relationship, police said.

Nusrat’s classmates Saifur Rahman Mohammad Zobair, Kamrun Nahar Moni, Poppy and Jabed directly took part in the arson attack on the rooftop, according to the law enforcers.

Poppy, a niece of Siraj, called and followed Nusrat to the rooftop, while Umme Sultana Poppy pinned the victim down by her neck.

Shakhawat Hossain Jabed doused her with kerosene and set her alight with a matchstick, police said citing their statements.

“The judgement proves that no one is above the law,” public prosecutor Hafez Ahmed told reporters after the court verdict.

He said the defence lawyers had tried unsuccessfully to establish that Jahan had committed suicide.

Defence lawyer Giasuddin Nannu said his clients will challenge the verdict in the High Court.

Jahan’s death sparked public outrage and mass demonstrations calling for her killers to be punished.

She had faced pressure to withdraw a complaint to police in March accusing the school principal of attempted rape, her family said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had met her family and vowed to bring the killers to justice.

“I can’t forget her for a moment. I still feel the pain that she went through,” mother Shirin Akhtar said as she burst into tears at her home following the verdict.

Bangladesh has seen a dramatic rise in the number of rape cases in recent months, with 217 women and children raped in September, the highest in any single month since 2010, according to a report published by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a women’s right group.

Many more cases go unreported because women fear being stigmatised.

Women’s’ rights activists attribute the increasing number of rapes to a lack of awareness, a culture of impunity, moral decadence, and people of influence protecting suspected rapists for political reasons.