• Friday, Oct 02, 2020
  • Last Update : 03:40 am

Pohela Boishakh sexual assault: Justice in dark tunnel as case gets stuck

  • Published at 02:16 pm April 14th, 2020
Pohela Boishakh sexual harrassment
This file photo taken April 14, 2015 shows a group men sexually assaulting a woman at Dhaka University campus Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

So far, the tribunal fixed 11 dates for recording deposition of prosecution witnesses

Five years have elapsed since the sexual harassment of women during Pohela Boishakh celebration in Dhaka on April 14, 2015, but the trial in the case filed over the incident is yet to be completed.

The case is now stuck with Dhaka Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal 8 as the prosecution could not produce witnesses before the tribunal for testimony.

The prosecution failed to produce any single witness since the trial had started on June 19, 2017 against the lone accused, Md Kamal.

So far, the tribunal fixed 11 dates for recording deposition but the court was not able to begin the process in the absence of  witnesses.

Finally, Judge Mafruza Begum fixed July 12 as the next date for starting recording testimony of prosecution witnesses.

However, Special Public Prosecutor of the tribunal Md Rezaul Karim told Dhaka Tribune that even though the court issued summons asking witnesses to appear before it, they are not coming which has left the case pending.

Meanwhile, the lone accused got bail from the High Court and was released from jail.

Earlier, the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) submitted a charge sheet against Kamal and mentioned names of 34 people as prosecution witnesses in the case on December 20, 2016.

Although it was mentioned in the charge sheet that only Kamal was involved in sexually assaulting women on the day, Investigation Officer (IO) PBI official Abdur Razzak said the names of seven others, identified through video footage, would be included in it if law enforcers could arrest them in the future.

But they failed to identify any of the seven suspects in the last four years.

However, defence counsel Anisur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that his client (Kamal, a father of three children) is "innocent" and was not involved in the sexual assault. 

"The investigation officers failed to identify the real perpetrators of the incident."

What happened on the day?

At least 20 women were sexually assaulted in an hour, allegedly under the nose of police, by a group of rowdy youths on the evening of April 14, 2015 during the Bangla New Year celebration near TSC (Teacher-Student Centre) on the Dhaka University campus.

Witnesses had alleged that a number of police personnel were standing nearby at the time of the incident, but did nothing to stop it. Moreover, one officer released two of the culprits who had been caught and handed over to him by the public.

The incident sparked a wave of protest across the country, with people from all quarters condemning it and demanding immediate arrest of the culprits. 

Police denied the incident

Police at first denied having any evidence of sexual assault, terming the incident a mere scuffle. 

But later, the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hoque told reporters that they had recognized the faces of eight people who allegedly carried out the assault and declared a reward of Tk1 lakh for information on them.

Police also released photos of the eight youths. The suspects were identified from the footage of CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras installed around the scene. 

At first, Detective Branch (DB) of police carried out the investigation in the case filed with Shahbagh police station.

The probe over the incident had been forced to a conclusion as the DB police failed to identify any of the offenders during their more than eight-month-long investigation.

The DB Sub-Inspector (SI) Dipok Kumar Das, also the IO in the case, submitted a final report before a Dhaka court on December 13, 2015 mentioning that he failed to identify the suspects.

But the IO later, appealed to the court seeking the reopening of the case following the arrest of Md Kamal from Dhaka's Chawkbazar area on January 27, 2016.   

On February 23, 2016, a Dhaka court ordered the PBI to re-investigate the case and the law enforcement agency later submitted the charge sheet.

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