Bangladesh doctors to be prosecuted over lashing report

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News, Dhaka

image captionHena Akhter's distraught parents witnessed the full horror of their daughter's lashing

Four Bangladeshi doctors who carried out the first post-mortem examination of a girl who died after being publicly whipped are to be prosecuted.

The High Court in Bangladesh made the ruling on Monday.

The 14-year-old girl, Hena Akhter (also known as Hena Begum), died six days after being lashed for an alleged extra-marital affair in late January.

The first autopsy report by the four doctors in the town of Shariatpur recorded no injuries to her body.

The initial post-mortem examination was carried out by a team of local doctors who deny any wrongdoing.

Following an outcry over the incident both at home and abroad, the High Court ordered her body to be exhumed for another post-mortem examination report.

The second report - compiled by doctors at Dhaka Medical College - said Miss Begum bled to death. It found multiple injuries on her body.

"The court has asked the authorities to file a criminal case against the four doctors for concealing the evidence in the first post-mortem report," Deputy Attorney General ABM Altaf Hossain told the BBC.

"The court has ordered health ministry officials to take departmental action against the four doctors."

One of the doctors who carried out the first post-mortem examination report told the BBC that they did nothing wrong while preparing the report but will accept the court's order.

It came after a special committee, consisting of medical experts appointed by the court, submitted its findings into the accuracy of the two autopsy reports.

Sharia law punishment

"On the basis of the findings of the committee, the court accepted the second post-mortem report as credible and correct," Mr Hossain said.

image captionHena Akhter died after being taken to hospital

A village court found Miss Akhter guilty of having an affair with a fellow villager and cousin, Mahbub Khan. Her family said the accusations were false.

Mr Khan was also found guilty by the village council and sentenced to be lashed, but eyewitnesses say he managed to escape during his punishment.

The High Court stepped in following local media reports that there had been a deliberate attempt to cover up the case in Shariatpur - a town about 80km (50 miles) from Dhaka.

Seven people, including Mr Khan, have been arrested in connection with the death of Miss Akhter while 11 others are still missing.

This is the second reported case of a fatality linked to a Sharia law punishment since the practice was outlawed last year by the High Court.

Activists say dozens of such fatwas or religious rulings are issued illegally in the rural areas of Bangladesh every year.

Muslim scholars say these fatwas are illegal as village-level clerics or elders do not have the authority to issue such rulings.

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