Sensational Rifat Murder Case: Gallows for Minni and 5 others
Ayesha Siddika Minni, the widow of slain Rifat Sharif, and five others were sentenced to death yesterday for killing the youth in broad daylight in Barguna in June last year.
A court in the district also fined the six Tk 50,000 each after it found them guilty of committing the murder -- an incident which caused public outcry across the country and beyond.
Besides, it identified Minni as a mastermind behind the killing, said the prosecution, citing the verdict.
Judge Md Asaduzzaman of Barguna District and Sessions Judges Court, however, acquitted four other accused as their involvement in the incident was not found.
Trial of 14 other accused is underway at the Barguna Children's Court.
Apart from Minni, 19, the five other convicts are: Rakibul Hasan Rifat alias Rifat Farazi, 23, Al Kaiyum alias Rabbi Akan, 21, Mohaiminul Islam Sifat, 19, Rezwan Ali Khan Hridoy alias TikTok Hridoy, 22, and Md Hasan, 22.
"From the discussions [based on the evidence], it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused Rifat Farazi, Rabbi Akan, Sifat, TikTok Hridoy, Md Hasan, and Minni have committed punishable offence under Sections 302 and 34 of the penal code by killing victim Rifat Sharif on the mentioned time, date, and place to fulfil their same purpose in a pre-planned way," the court said.
"This brutal murder committed by hacking with a traditional machete in broad daylight beats the barbarity of medieval ages," observed Judge Md Asaduzzaman, while reading the summery of the judgment in a packed courtroom in the southern district town.
All the accused involved in the heinous killing are youths. People of all ages, including youths at home and abroad, had witnessed the brutality via information technology and social media, he continued.
"In this given situation, if they are not handed down exemplary punishment, then there will be an apprehension that youths may take wrong paths following them [the convicts]. So exemplary punishment of the accused is a must," he added.
The court, however, said the convicts could file appeals with the High Court within seven days, if they wished.
The four accused who got acquittal are Rafiul Islam Rabbi, 20, Mohammad Sagor, 19, Kamrul Islam Saimun, 21 and Md Musa, 22. Of them, Musa had not been arrested. He was absconding while the other nine accused were present at court yesterday.
Rifat, 25, an internet service provider, was hacked by some youths, led by prime accused Nayon Bond, in front of Barguna Government College in broad daylight on June 26 last year. Rifat died at Barishal Medical College Hospital later that day.
A video clip of the barbaric attack, believed to be captured on a mobile phone, went viral on social media triggering public outrage, with many condemning bystanders for not coming forward to save Rifat.
The following day, the victim's father filed the murder case with Barguna Sadar Police Station, naming 12 as accused.
Minni, who was seen in the video clip screaming while desperately trying to stave off two men attacking her husband with sharp weapons, was made the first witness in the case.
But after some days, her father-in-law demanded her arrest claiming that she herself was involved in the murder.
Following investigation, she was named as the seventh accused in the charge sheet.
Nayon Bond was killed in a "gunfight" with police on July 2 last year.
Mujibul Haque Kislu, an assistant public prosecutor of the Barguna court, said the court came up with a special observation regarding Minni's direct link with her husband's murder.
"She was involved in the planning as she had conversations in this regard with other accused," Kislu said, citing the verdict.
Minni got married to Nayon Bond secretly before tying the knot with Rifat, said Kislu, adding that keeping two husband at the same time is illegal. She then hatched a plan with Nayon Bond and Rifat was killed according to that plan under the leadership of Nayon.
"For this reason, the court has handed down death penalty to Minni," he added.
On September 1 last year, police submitted separate charge sheets to the court, accusing 10 adults and 14 juveniles of the murder.
The Barguna District and Sessions Judge Court framed charges against the 10 on January 1 this year.
The court recorded testimonies of 76 witnesses and heard closing arguments from both the prosecution and the defence counsels before fixing yesterday to deliver the verdict.
Security was beefed up in and around Barguna town, including on the court premises, Tuesday evening. Two police members were deployed for the security of Rifat's father.
Minni, who was in the custody of her lawyer Mahbubul Bari Aslam, was brought to the court around 9:00am yesterday by her father on a motorcycle. Eight other accused, who were in jail, were taken to the court around noon.
Lawyers, fathers of both Minni and Rifat, and several journalists were allowed to enter the court building amid tight security before the judge started to pronounce the verdict around 12:30pm.
After the verdict, Minni was taken to jail in a microbus while the other convicts were taken there in a prison van.
Convict Rifat Farazi, relative of Barguna District Council Chairman Delawar Hossain, was seen laughing while being taken to the van. "The High Court will release us," he was heard yelling.
Some of the family members of the convicts were seen crying outside the court after the verdict was delivered.
REACTIONS ON VERDICT
Rifat's father Abdul Halim Dulal Sharif expressed satisfaction over the verdict.
"We are happy. My son's soul will get some peace … we demand quick execution of the verdict," he told journalists.
Terming the verdict "historic," Public Prosecutor Bhuban Chandra Haldar expressed satisfaction at it. "The court has identified Minni as the mastermind behind the killing," he added.
"The verdict has proved that offenders, whoever they are, will be punished. None can get away after committing any offence," he said.
Minni's father Mozammel Hossain Kishore, however, said, "My daughter is innocent. We have been denied justice."
"The countrymen [through the video clip] saw how she tried to save Rifat from the attackers, risking her own life. Yet, the court has given her death penalty. We can't accept it," he said.
Minni's lawyer Mahbubul Bari Aslam said they would go to the High Court and hoped that she would be proved not guilty.