Four Bangladeshi doctors will face legal action on charges of hiding the cause of death of teenager Hena Begum, flogged to death after villagers found her guilty of adultery.
The 14-year-old died after allegedly being raped by her 40-year-old cousin and punished with a public lashing.
The High Court on Monday asked the government to sue the doctors, including the civil surgeon of Shariatpur district, where Begum had lived, for preparing a "false post-mortem report to hide the real cause of Hena's death," CNN reported.
Begum, also known as Hena Akhter, was in late January sentenced to 101 lashes under Sharia, or Islamic, law for allegedly having an affair with a village man, but reportedly only lasted 70 blows before collapsing. She was taken to hospital but died a week later, and her death was judged a suicide by a local hospital.
An initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. But Begum's body was exhumed on orders from the High Court and a second autopsy — compiled by doctors at Dhaka Medical College — concluded that she had died from wounds "of a homicidal nature" on her scalp, abdomen, back, chest, arms and legs, according to the Guardian.
Begum's death provoked widespread outrage in Bangladesh, where punishments in the name of fatwa — a religious edict — were outlawed last July.
"What sort of justice is this? My daughter has been beaten to death in the name of justice. If it had been a proper court then my daughter would not have died," Dorbesh Khan, Begum’s father, reportedly said at the time.
BBC reports that four people including a Muslim cleric have since been arrested. The district superintendent of police is looking for an additional 14 people involved in the case, including a local teacher.
Begum's family insisted on the body being exhumed, in the hope it would reveal the truth about what happened to their daughter.
According to CNN, the story goes thus:
Hena's cousin, Mahbub Khan had returned to Shariatpur from a stint working in Malaysia. His son was Hena's age, and the two were in seventh grade together.
Khan reportedly eyed Hena and began harassing her on her way to school and back, said Hena's father. He complained to the elders who run the village about his nephew, who was three times Hena's age.
The elders admonished Mahbub Khan and ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines to Hena's family. According to her sister, many months later, Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.
Hena struggled to escape and Mahbub Khan's wife heard Hena's muffled screams and when she found Hena with her husband, she dragged the teenage girl back to her hut, beat her and trampled her on the floor.
The next day, the imam pronounced his fatwa, Khan and Begum were found guilty of an illicit relationship, she received 101 lashes, he 201.
Khan reportedly escaped after the first few lashes.
The High Court has directed the government to prosecute four doctors of the Shariatpur district, including district Civil Surgeon Golam Sarwar, for preparing a false autopsy report.
"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."