All 5 accused out on bail
Three and half years have already elapsed since the rape of two private university students at The Raintree Dhaka hotel in Banani in 2017, but the trial in the case is yet to be completed.
The trial is now pending with Dhaka Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-7 due to non-appearance of witnesses and negligence of officials concerned, court sources said. Only 18 out of 47 prosecution witnesses have testified before the tribunal in the last three and half years.
The 18th prosecution witness Mahmadul Hasan, former Dhaka metropolitan magistrate, testified before the tribunal on October 14. Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing in the case till November 18.
Special Public Prosecutor Afroza Farhana Ahmed told this correspondent: “This is one of the very important cases but there is not much progress in the case due to absence of witnesses.”
There are allegations that prosecution witnesses are not turning up at the court due to threats against their lives by the families of the accused.
She also alleged that lawyers of the accused are wasting time by giving various excuses.
Denying allegations of negligence, the state lawyer said: “Trial proceedings are now being hampering as the two senior defence lawyers –Mosharraf Hossain Kajol and Mahabub Hossain—have contracted Covid-19.”
All five accused, including prime accused Shafat Ahmed, are currently roaming free life after being released on bail.
It has been reported that around 200,000 cases are pending with Woman and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals in 64 districts of the country. Among these cases, about 40,000 have been pending for more than five years.
Experts said the trials of cases filed under the Woman and Child Repression (Prevention) Act do not end easily, even though the law has a provision for a quick disposal of these cases.
Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association President Advocate Salma Ali said the law requires such cases to be disposed of within 180 days, but there is no record of any cases being completed within the stipulated time.
Defendants in the cases are often influential and can manipulate the judiciary in many ways, she added.
According to the charge sheet of the Hotel Raintree rape case, the two private university students went to the hotel around 9:00pm after being invited to a birthday party on March 28, 2017. After the party ended around midnight, Shafat Ahmed and Shafat’s friend Nayem Ashraf raped the girls in two rooms.
Shafat’s driver Billal Hossain filmed the rape and bodyguard Rahmat Ali intimidated the girls, while Shadman Sakif refrained from informing the hotel authorities and police about the incident.
Earlier, on July 13, 2017, the court started the trial through the framing of charges against the five accused. Of the accused, Shafat and Nayem were charged with raping the victims while Billal, Rahmat and Sakif were charged with helping the rapists.
Police had submitted the charge sheet in the case on June 8, 2017. The case was filed with Banani Police Station on May 6, 2017.