02/10/2011, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Teenage girl dies from lashing, four people arrested for murder

Hena Begum, who was unjustly convicted of adultery under Sharia by a village court, died from 200 lashes. A medical report initially said she died of natural causes. The phenomenon is widespread across the country, but there are no statistics.

Dakha (AsiaNews) – Four men, including an imam, were arrested for the murder of a 15-year-old girl, Hena Begum. Twelve additional people are under investigation for their possible role in the girl’s death. The teenager died from bleeding caused by 200 lashes. She had been unjustly accused of having an extra-marital affair with a married cousin, Mahbub Khan, who in fact had raped her. Sources told AsiaNews that Hena’s case illustrates a widespread phenomenon that rarely comes to the fore.

Hena’s case was not supposed to come out. She was convicted by a local village “court” and sentenced to death by lashing in accordance with Sharia, but not Bangladeshi law, for something she did not do. The punishment was carried out using a “gancha”, a piece of wet cloth used as a lash. The medical report said she died of “natural causes” and that her body did not show any sign of violence.

“It is a commonplace in rural areas and among the poorest sectors of society,” sources tell AsiaNews. “A conspiracy of silence covers the powerful and harms the weakest. Then, there is corruption. The death certificate was a fake because it was paid for. This is closely related to bigotry because the local imam issued a fatwa against the girl. There was no justice in this story.”

When the news was published in a newspaper, it provoked a wave of indignation against local police. Hena’s body was exhumed and a post-mortem examination carried out in a hospital in the capital where doctors found multiple injuries. Prosecutors eventually acted to find out what happened.

“This is an underground phenomenon that occurs frequently,” the sources told AsiaNews, but there are no statistics. “We hope the incident might force the authorities to get to the bottom of the matter at the national level.”

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