Family unhappy as death reference not heard in 3 years –


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Nusrat Jahan Rafi

The family of slain Feni madrassah student Nusrat Jahan Rafi has expressed disappointment as the High Court is yet to take up the death reference of 16-death row convicts and their appeals for hearing despite two-and-a-half years have passed since the lower court disposed of the murder case.

Nusrat died four days after she was set on fire on April 6, 2019 by her classmates on orders from madrassah principal Sirajuddoula at her Alim examination centre at the Sonagazi Senior Islamia Fazil Madrassah.

The brutal death of 18-year old Nusrat, an Alim examinee from Sonagazi Senior Fazil Madrassah, shocked the nation.

‘We are very disappointed as there is no further progress on the case at the High Court after the lower court sentenced all the 16 perpetrators  to death through an expeditious trial,’ Nusrat’s mother Shirin Akhter told New Age on Saturday.

She said that the family wants the execution of all the 16 death-row convicts after immediately completing all the legal requirements.

‘The state, which is now the prosecutor of the case, should materialise the commitment given to us by the prime minister, stating justice will be done for the soul of Nusrat,’ the mother added.

She said that she wants to see the offenders executed in her lifetime.

The mother demanded the construction of a monument or naming of a road or an establishment in Sonagazi after Nusrat to recall her courage against immorality and injustice done to her. 

Nusrat, daughter of AKM Musa of Uttar Charchandia in Sonagazi, was murdered as she refused to withdraw the case filed by her mother with the Sonagazi police station on March 27, 2019 against Sirajuddoula for sexually harassing her.

On October 24, 2019, the Feni Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal sentenced all the 16 accused, including the then Sonagazi Senior Islamia Fazil Madrassah principal SM Sirajuddoula, to death for killing Nusrat.

On October 29, 2019, the High Court received the death reference and the paper book of the case was completed on a priority basis on January 30, 2020, so that it could be disposed of expeditiously.

An official of the High Court told New Age that the then chief justice, Syed Mahmud Hossain on March 1, 2020, assigned the HC bench of Justice Soumendra Sarker and Justice Shahed Nuruddin for hearing the death reference and the appeals.

The official said that Justice Soumendra Sarker returned the case to the Death References Section soon after his court lost the power to hear death references following the reconstruction of benches by the chief justice on August 12, 2020, after the closure of the court for 140 days due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Since then the death reference of 16 convicts and their appeals remained shelved in the Death Reference Section of the High Court as no bench was assigned to hear and dispose of the sensational murder case.

Asked to comment about the death reference of the 16-convicts in the Nusrat murder case, attorney general AM Amin Uddin told New Age that he was unaware of the case.

Deputy attorney general Bashir Ahmed told New Age that he was assigned to deal with the death reference in August 2020 as a government law officer posted to the bench led by Justice Soumendra Sarker.

An officer of the High Court’s registrar’s office told New Age that there was no instruction of posting Nusrat’s murder case’s death reference to a High Court bench for hearing.    

The officer said that chief justice Hasan Foez Siddique assigned four High Court benches to hear and dispose of death reference cases, maintaining the serial of their filing period until 2016.

Besides the four benches, there were two more High Court benches, which hear death references one or two days a week.

There were 750 references of death sentence recipients awaiting a hearing by the High Court since 2004, according to the High Court’s statistics as of September 16, 2019.

Supreme Court spokesman Mohammad Saifur Rahman told New Age on Saturday that he needed time to know from officials if there was any update on the death reference in the Nusrat murder case.  The convicts are Sonagazi Senior Islamia Fazil Madrasah principal SM Sirajuddoula, 57, Sonagazi upazila unit Awami League’s former president Ruhul Amin, 55, Sonagazi municipality AL’s former joint general secretary Maksud Alam alias Moksud, 50, teachers of the madrassah Abdul Quader, 25, and Absar Uddin, 33, Nusrat’s classmates Umme Sultana Popy, 19, and Kamrunnahar Moni, 19, and former and present students of the madrassah Shahadat Hossain Shamim, 20, Nur Uddin, 20, Imran Hossain Mamun, 22, Iftekhar Uddin Rana, 22, Saifur Rahman Mohammad Zobair, 21, Javed Hossain alias Sakhawat Hossain Javed, 19, Mohiuddin Shakil, 20, Mohammad Shamim, 20, and Abdur Rahim Sharif, 20.

All of them are from different areas of Sonagazi upazila in Feni district.

 Besides, the Cyber Tribunal in Dhaka on November 28, 2019 jailed former Sonagazi police station officer-in-charge Moazzem Hossain for eight years with a fine of Tk 10 lakh under the Digital Security Act for illegally recording and sharing a video clip of Nusrat, which was recorded on March 27, 2019, when she went to the police station with her mother to file a case against principal Sirajuddoula.

The appeal of OC Moazzem, who is now in jail, against his sentence was also pending with the High Court.

Lawyer M Shahjahan Sazu, who appeared for the Nusrat’s family in Feni court, told New Age that the death reference was listed for hearing by the HC in 2020 following special instruction from the then chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain.

But the death references were not in the hearing list as the jurisdiction of the HC bench was changed.

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