Sixteen people have been sentenced to death in Bangladesh for the murder of a schoolgirl who was burned alive after she accused the headmaster in her school of sexually abusing her.
19-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi was reportedly tied up, doused in kerosene and set on fire on the rooftop of her school in Feni, a small town 100 miles from Dhaka, back in April 2019.
Prosecutors said the attackers had pressured Nusrat to withdraw her complaint against the headmaster, but when she she refused, they set her alight. The attackers tried to make the death look like a suicide but their plan failed when the flames burned through a scarf used to tie her and she escaped.
While still on fire as she ran for help, she was rushed to hospital with burns to 80 percent of her body.
In a video filmed by her brother as they were rushing to the hospital, the victim explained what had happened and named some of her attackers.
‘The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath,’ she said. She died five days later in hospital.
‘The verdict proves that nobody will get away with murder in Bangladesh. We have the rule of law,’ prosecutor Hafez Ahmed said following the verdict.
Back in March, Rafi went to Police to report the sexual harassment, and a leaked video shows the local police station chief registering her complaint but dismissing it as ‘not a big deal’.
At the time police had said that one of the 18 people initially arrested had accused the school’s principal of ordering the attack.
The teacher ‘told them to put pressure on Rafi to withdraw the case or kill her if she refused’, senior police superintendent Mohammad Iqbal, who led the investigation, had told AFP.
According to Iqbal, some of those arrested were Rafi’s classmates who had tied her up with a scarf before setting her on fire.
‘The plan was to pass the incident off as a suicide. But it fell through after Rafi managed to come downstairs while on fire because the scarf burnt and freed her hands and feet,’ he said.
Her Headmaster, Siraj Ud Doula was among three teachers found guilty over the case, along with two local politicians, Ruhul Amin and Maksud Alam.