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     Volume 5 Issue 103 | July 14, 2006 |

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News Notes

Five Walks the Gallows for Killing Shazneen
Eight years after the brutal rape and murder of Shazneen Tasneem Rahman, the 15 year old daughter of Latifur Rahman, chairman of Transcom Limited, comes the High Court (HC) verdict, which is not much different from that of the lower court. The HC on July 10 upheld the death penalty of the five of the six accused sentenced to death by the lower court and acquitted the other. The HC Death Reference Bench on Shazneen murder case in its judgment said the prosecution proved beyond doubt the charges against the five convicts for the gruesome killing of Shazneen.
The bench comprising Justice Ali Asger Khan and Emdadul Haque found that mason Shaniram Mandal was not involved either in the conspiracy or rape and murder of Shazneen. As Mandal supplied the chisel to the killers he was considered one of the conspirators in the lower court verdict which was delivered on September 2, 2003 -- exactly five years, four months and ten days after the sensational murder.
The trial of the case began on July 9, 2000 with deposition of complainant Mojibur Rahman. Shazneen, the youngest daughter of Latifur Rahman, a student of class nine of Scholastica School, was raped and killed at their residence in Dhaka on April 23, 1998.
Latifur Rahman filed a murder case the following day with Gulshan police station, accusing Shahidul Islam alias Shahid, a domestic help at his residence. In the FIR, Rahman said that he last talked to his daughter in her ground floor bedroom at about 8:00 pm on the night of the murder. Then he went on to the first floor to attend a party that he hosted for some of his friends. It was during that party that the gruesome murder took place. Shazneen was stabbed twenty times. A three-inch-deep wound was found in the neck. It was a scream of a maid that made Rahman come down at around 10:15 at night to discover the murdered daughter.
Primary investigation showed that Shahid, a domestic servant, fled the house after raping and killing Shazneen between 8:00 pm and 10:15 pm. It was on April 25 that the first investigation officer of the case recovered a bloodstained knife from the western side of the Rahman residence. Four days into the investigation, Shahid, the prime accused who had been absconding since the rape and murder, surrendered to the Kotwali police in Chittagong. It was from the confessional statements of Shahid that the CID, who took over investigation on May 27, could reconstruct the scene of the murder and was sure of the involvement of the other four among which one named Hasan's role as the mastermind was confirmed. Shahid revealed in his confessional statement that he raped and killed Shazneen at the instigation of Hasan, with the help of Humayun, Shaniram, Badal, Minu and Pervin. However, during the course of the trial Shahid denied having raped her.

Following the lower court verdict that found guilty all six of the accused, the case was appealed by the convicts. The Death Reference Bench began hearing the submission of the defense and prosecution on March 30 this year. After a 31-workday hearing that ended on June 27, the bench fixed July 4 for delivering its verdict. Both the prosecution and Shazneen's family expressed their satisfaction following the verdict, saying the judgement rightly upheld the lower court order.

Still Too Many People
We don't need a 'Population Day' to tell us that we have way too many people in too little space but once in a while a wake up call is needed to bring home this overwhelming problem. July 11 was indeed World Population Day with special emphasis on 'young people'. The country, at present, has a population of 144,319,628 crore. The government has targeted 2010 to reduce the present fertility rate of 3.0 to 2.1 through various programmes. If this goal is achieved then the population will reach 17 crore 20 lakh by 2020 and 21 crore by 2060 when, according to the Health and Family Welfare Minister, the population will reach a stable position.
The government programmes aim to provide seventy-two percent people with family

A sewer discharges effluent from dyeing factories into a pond at Jibaro of Ashulia. Disposal of toxic waste in the water bodies continues unabated, polluting the environment of the locality. Photo: Sk.Enamul Huq

planning devices, seventy-five percent mothers will have health care during pregnancy and fifty percent mothers will have safe delivery.
Meanwhile at a roundtable on reproductive rights of women, Dr. Halida Hanum Akhter, director general of Family Planning Association of Bangladesh said about one-fifth of married teenage girls in the country are forced to conceive against their consent and most of them have no knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
This only goes to show the extent of the challenge. It is mysterious why population control programmes have not made more significant impacts. With a burgeoning population, the majority of which consists of poor, illiterate young people, efforts to control the factors that affect population growth - early marriage, widespread contraceptive availability and use, education etc. - must be pursued aggressively. It does not take a genius to know that overpopulation only exacerbates poverty and all its by products - illhealth, stunting, disease, low quality of life and immeasurable misery. One can only wonder why erstwhile population control programmes have not had better results.

Raushan Mandal Vs the State
Last week, in a historic verdict the High Court acquitted 14-year-old Raushan Mandal of the charges of rape and murder. A huge public uproar was made when it was reported that a minor was handed down death penalty by the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal, Jhenidah.

The HC division bench comprising of Justices Md Iman Ali and AKM Fazlur Rahman has said that no circumstantial evidence could be found to link the child with the gruesome incident. The bench has also observed that the confessional statement of the minor taken in police custody was not voluntary.

What makes the bench's verdict extraordinary in the country's history is its observation that if the accused is the child, he or she must be tried in a juvenile court. Though the judgment is a belated one, it will surely make the country a little more safe for its future citizens.




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