16 charged in Bangladesh for burning girl alive

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Sixteen people have been charged in Bangladesh over the shocking murder of a teenager who was burned to death after reporting sexual harassment.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, was doused with kerosene and set on fire on the roof of her Islamic school on 6 April, days after filing a complaint.

Headmaster Siraj Ud Doula, targeted in the complaint, is among those charged.

Police say he ordered her murder from prison when she refused to withdraw her accusations against him.

They described the preparations for the killing as being like a “military plan”.

The case sparked mass protests in Bangladesh and shone a spotlight on the vulnerability of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the country.

Ms Rafi filed a police complaint against Mr Doula in late March and he was arrested. On 6 April she attended the school to sit her final exams when she was allegedly lured to the roof of the school and set alight by a group of people wearing burkas, a one-piece veil that covers the face and body.

They had planned to make it look like a suicide, police said, but Ms Rafi – who suffered burns to 80% of her body – was able to give a statement before she died on 10 April.

Police in Feni, a small town some 160km (100 miles) outside the capital Dhaka, formally laid murder charges on Wednesday against the 16 accused. They include students at the madrassa and two local politicians from the governing Awami League party who were in prominent positions at the school.

Investigators are calling for the death penalty for all of the suspects. Police say that the principal has confessed in court that he ordered the murder.

They say that in total 12 of the accused have given statements of confession. The two local politicians have not admitted any involvement.

In the wake of Ms Rafi’s death, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged that every person involved in the killing would be brought to justice.

“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said.

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