Bangladesh to charge 16 after girl burned to death

Rafi's death sparked protests in the community. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 May 2019
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Bangladesh to charge 16 after girl burned to death

  • The prime minister promised to prosecute all those involved in the murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi
  • Rafi refused to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint against the head teacher of the institution

DHAKA: Bangladesh police were set to file charges on Wednesday against 16 people, including the headmaster of an Islamic seminary, over the shocking murder of a 19-year-old girl burned to death.
The killing of Nusrat Jahan Rafi last month sparked protests across the South Asian nation, with the prime minister promising to prosecute all those involved.
Rafi was lured to the rooftop of the Islamic seminary she attended where her attackers asked her to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint filed with police against the head teacher.
When she refused, she was doused in kerosene and set on fire. She died five days later, triggering outrage. Her death highlighted alarming rise in sexual harassment cases in the country.
Bangladesh’s Police Bureau of Investigation said they would file the chargesheet in a court in the country’s south later on Wednesday against the 16 people who include two girls who were classmates of Rafi.
“They are charged under the women and children repression law and we’ll recommend death penalty for all 16 accused,” PBI lead investigator Mohammad Iqbal told AFP.
Iqbal said the Principal of the Sonagazi Islamia Senior Fazil Madrasa Siraj Ud Doula where Rafi was a student ordered the murder from jail.
Rafi had gone to police in late March to report the alleged sexual harassment against the teacher, and a leaked video shows the local police station chief registering her complaint but dismissing it as “not a big deal.”
Iqbal said at least five people including three of Rafi’s classmates, had tied her up with a scarf before setting her on fire. The plan was to pass the incident off as a case of suicide.
Rafi suffered burns to 80 percent of her body and died in hospital on April 10. But she recorded a video before her death, repeating her allegations against the principal.
Rafi’s brother Mahmudul Hasan Noman said they want a fast-track trial. “We want all the culprits to be hanged to death,” he told AFP.
The head of Mahila Parishad, a women’s rights group, gave a “guarded welcome” at the quick investigation of the case but said more needed to be done to end a “culture of impunity” over sexual harassment and rape cases.
“Very few rape cases end in convictions,” she said.
According to the group, about 950 women were raped in Bangladesh last year.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.