BANGLADESH: SUSPECTS CHARGED IN RAPE OF PASTOR’S DAUGHTER
DHAKA, Bangladesh, October 1 Sayed Tariqul Islam told Compass that police submitted the charge sheet on Sept. 7 based on an extensive investigation following a DNA test that turned out positive. Pastor Motilal Das, who has long received threats from villagers upset with his success as an evangelist, said that local residents gang-raped his 13-year-old daughter in an attempt to drive him from the area.
State prosecutor Islam said Shakil Ahmed Shebul and Dulal Miah are charged with raping Elina Das at 3 a.m. on May 2. If convicted, they will receive life terms in prison, he said.
“The DNA report is everything to prove them guilty, and I expect that they will be punished with life-term imprisonment,” said Islam.
Previously a medical college had submitted a false forensic test report indicating no evidence of sexual assault. Villagers in Laksmipur, in Fulbaria sub-district 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Dhaka, believe relatives of the accused men paid off the Mymensingh Medical College Hospital Forensic Department to fabricate the false test results.
Pastor Das has said relatives of the alleged rapists have offered him a large sum of money to withdraw the case or settle out of court – while continuing to threaten him. He had found his daughter lying unconscious in front of his house early in the morning of May 2, he said, after five men from Mymensingh district raped her.
The charge sheet submitted by police and the positive DNA report state that the girl’s clothes were torn and marked with the semen of Shebul. A close neighbor of Pastor Das, Shebul applied for bail on Tuesday (Sept. 29), but the court refused to grant it, said Islam.
Miah remains at large. Local police inspector Tarapod Shikder told Compass that assiduous efforts were underway to arrest him.
Pastor Das told Compass that he was dismayed that the charge sheet did not require Shebul to be taken on remand by police for interrogation.
“If the arrested person was held on remand for interrogation, police would get more information regarding other rapists,” Pastor Das.
Inspector Shikder told him that police had already taken Shebul on remand for interrogation and obtained little information, Pastor Das said.
“Nonetheless,” Pastor Das said, “the charge sheet will help to heal the scars of my grief-stricken daughter if proper justice is done.”
Defending the initial false DNA report, Forensic Department head Akhteruzzaman Talukder of Mymensingh Medical College Hospital had told Compass that he did not find any gang-rape injury or trace of forced sexual activity.
Pastor Das’s daughter “might have had a love affair with someone in the village,” Talukder said. “Her lover might have been guarded there by his several friends. When the family members came to know the incident, they cooked it up as gang rape.”
Pastor Das and Muslim villagers were extremely upset by the initial forensic report. He subsequently had his daughter’s clothes tested for DNA profiling at the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
His Muslim neighbors, he said, consider the positive DNA test a ray of hope for proper judgment. Pastor Das acknowledged his gratitude to some of the village neighbors who gave him moral support during that time.
“I cannot express my gratitude in words to some of my Muslim neighbors in the village who gave me courage and moral support to go forward when I got the false forensic report from Mymensingh Medical College,” he said.
When Pastor Das initially went to police to file charges, he said, police were reluctant to register the case.
“Police told me that it was a false case,” he said. “They also said that it was a fabricated drama. Police spoke with my daughter in filthy language and showed prurient interest in the details of the incident in front of us rather than filing the case quickly.”
The U.S. Department of State’s 2008 International Religious Freedom Report, released in Sept. 19, notes that Bangladeshi government officials, “including the police, were often ineffective in upholding law and order and were sometimes slow to assist religious minority victims of harassment and violence.”
The day of the alleged rape, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced annual recommendations for countries to be designated “Countries of Particular Concern,” but it did not include Bangladesh.
Rather, the commission put Bangladesh on its “Watch List” due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government. Other countries on the Watch List are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.
According to USCIRF, Islamist radicalism and violence, the threat of serious violence and continued discrimination against members of religious minority communities remain significant concerns in Bangladesh.
Source: Compass Direct