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Bangladesh : Rape case medical report called false

6/6/08 Dhaka , Bangladesh (Compass Direct News) – A Christian pastor who said his daughter was gang-raped last month concurred with his Muslim neighbors that relatives of the suspects told villagers they paid off the forensics team to assert that she was not sexually assaulted.

Pastor Motilal Das of Laksmipur village in Fulbaria sub-district, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital, said he found his 13-year-old daughter lying unconscious in front of his house in the early morning of May 2 after five villagers from Mymensingh district raped her. Das said the villagers were upset at his evangelistic efforts and raped his daughter in an effort to drive him from the area.

Das became the first Christian in the area in 1986 and has been key in the emergence of 12 churches. A United Bethany Church pastor who has long received death threats from area Muslims, Das said he went to the Fulbaria police station on Sunday (June 1) to find out the results of the forensic test on his daughter.

“Police informed me that the forensic report was negative, meaning that my daughter had not been gang-raped,” Das said. “There had been discussion in the locality that nothing would happen in the medical report because relatives of the rapists gave 80,000 taka (US$1,190) to the medical college to buy off the report in their favor.”

Laksmipur village neighbors were shocked by the forensic report, which they had hoped would help bring the rapists to justice.

“The report raped my mind,” said Babul Mia, a 32-year-old Muslim neighbor and owner of a confectionary shop. “It is extremely shocking in such a civilized society. The report proves that anything can be possible by money.”

Mia said relatives of the rapists had told local people that “nothing would happen” in the case because they had given 80,000 taka to the medical college “to get the report the other way round.”

Villagers said, Mia added, that Das was so “alone” and “dirt poor” that he would be powerless to pursue justice against the rapists. “They said, ‘He is a Christian – what will he do?’ I personally demand that the rapists should be punished according to the law.”

Another Muslim neighbor, 25-year-old political science student Mohammad Khalilullah, 25, expressed his bewilderment after hearing of the medical report.

“I have heard by word-of-mouth in the village that the rapists gave more or less 80,000 to the medical college to get the report in their favor,” Khalilullah said. “The medical report is appalling. As a neighbor from the same village, we demand proper judgment of this gang-rape, not a travesty of justice – repression on these minority Christians should be judged.”

Das took his daughter Elina Das to Mymensingh Medical College Hospital on May 3 for the forensic test. He said specialists examined the results for two weeks and later sent it to the Fulbaria police station.

‘Love Affair’

Mymensingh Medical College Hospital Forensic Department head Akhteruzzaman Talukder denied the accusations, telling Compass that Das’s daughter “might have had a love affair with someone in the village.”

“Her lover might have been guarded there by his several friends,” Talukder said. “When the family members came to know the incident, they cooked it up as gang rape. We did not find any injury of gang-rape or any trace of forced sexual activities in her body.”

Talukder said he himself examined Elina Das. Contradicting his suggestion that she may have consented to sex, he said he found no evidence of penetration.

“We did not find any sign of penetration in her body,” he said. “Even her hymen remained intact. So their claim of gang-rape is false.”

Das’ neighbor Mia said villagers widely acknowledge the forensic report as false. “This report offered not a vestige of comfort in the locality,” Mia said.

Other neighbors asked to comment on the forensic report said they were afraid to do so publicly.

Police declined to comment on the forensic report, citing the ongoing investigation. When Das initially went to police to file charges, he said, police were reluctant to register the case, spoke rudely to his daughter and “showed prurient interest” in the details of the incident.

After intervention from an Assembly of God denominational official, police began to investigate. Investigating officer Sanwar Hossen of Fulbaria police station initially said that five villagers attacked Elina Das when she went from her thatched house to an outdoor latrine.

“Five people lying in ambush in the pitch-dark near the toilet snatched her by gagging her mouth with her body scarf [and taking her] to a nearby tea stall, 400 meters from the house, where they gang-raped her,” Hossen told Compass.

Elina Das has identified two of the rapists and could identify the others if she saw them or their pictures, according to her father. Police have arrested Shebul Miah, 22. The girl identified another suspect, 32-year-old Dulal Miah, alias Dulu, who remains at large.

Fearful of his life if he returned to his home, Das has since relocated to the home of a friend in Dhaka .

Two days after the rape, students, teachers and the committee members of the school that Elina Das attends submitted a memorandum of protest to the administrative chief of Mymensingh district.

“I express my hatred against this gang-rape, which is one of the most sinful deeds in Islam,” a local madrassa (Islamic school) teacher told Compass on condition of anonymity. “I demand proper justice of this inhuman activity. I think all the people who can think should protest against this gang-rape and should want proper justice.”