Judgement raises questions over how the lower court could arrive at such a flawed verdict
The High Court on Monday cleared five death row convicts of all charges in a case filed over the gang-rape of a teenage girl 18 years ago.
The bench of Justice SM Emdadul Hoque and Justice Bhishmadev Chakraborty came up with the verdict after hearing the appeals of the accused and the death reference of the case.
The convicted accused are Shamim, Vikon Rongdi, Tikon Rongdi, Tapash Shema and Rup Miah of Netrokona's Purbadhala upazila. Among them, Rup Miah is absconding.
Deputy Attorney General Md Mozammal Haque Rana represented the state while lawyers Fazlul Hoque Khan Farid, AM Mahbub Uddin and a few others stood for the accused.
The court dropped the charges against the accused as the allegations were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s lawyers said.
Fazlul Hoque said, “There was no evidence of rape in the medical report and the statements made by the victim and witnesses were inconsistent.”
Asked if the government will move an appeal against the verdict, Deputy Attorney General Mozammal Haque said, “I will send a note to the Attorney General. If he decides on lodging an appeal, it will be done.”
According to the case statement, the teenager was repeatedly gang-raped – on July 20, 2002 – in Netrokona while she was on her way to a relative’s house.
The girl, who was 15-year-old at that time, filed a case with Purbadhala Police Station the next day.
On November 8 that same year, the police filed a charge sheet.
Almost 13 years later, in February 2015, the district Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal sentenced the five accused to death in connection with the case and imposed a fine of Tk25,000 on each. Monday's judgement must raise questions over how the lower court could arrive at such a flawed verdict. The full judgement, once it is delivered, can be expected to shed light on whether the reasons were systemic or specific to the case.