Sixteen people in Bangladesh were charged Wednesday in connection to the murder of a teenage girl who was burned to death last month after reporting sexual harassment.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, was reportedly doused with kerosene at school and burned to death after filing a complaint with local police in late March, alleging that the principal at her Islamic school, Siraj Ud Doula, inappropriately touched her repeatedly, according to the BBC.
Doula, who was reportedly targeted in the complaint, is among those charged. Police claim he ordered her murder from prison when she refused to drop the charges against him.
Rafi’s family helped her file the complaint, which led to Doula’s arrest. Influential local politicians backed the principal, and ruling party members were also among those arrested.
Rafi reportedly told her brother that a fellow female student allegedly lured her to the roof of her school in the rural town of Feni on April 6th by telling her that one of her friends was being attacked. When Rafi got to the roof, 5 people clad in burqas allegedly demanded she drop the sexual harassment charges.
Rafi told her brother that when she refused, she was allegedly gagged and her hands were tied, then she was doused in kerosene and burned. She told her brother what happened in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and he recorded her testimony on his cell phone. In the recording she also identified some of her attackers, saying they were students at the school, according to the BBC.
Rafi suffered burns on 80 percent of her body and died 4 days later.
Police said the group had planned to make her death look like a suicide. Sixteen people accused in the case, including students at Rafi’s school and 2 local politicians who held prominent positions at the school, have been charged.
Investigators are asking for the death penalty for all of the suspects, and police reportedly said that Doula confessed in court that he ordered the murder. Police said 12 of those charged have confessed but the 2 local politicians have not admitted any involvement.
Protesters hold placards and gathered to demand justice for Nusrat Jahan Rafi who was allegedly killed after she was set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school’s principal, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Mahmud Hossain Opu)
The incident sparked mass protests in Bangladesh from people demanding justice for Rafi. The case has shined a light on the vulnerability of victims of sexual assault in the conservative Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment is often unreported.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina vowed that every person involved in Rafi’s killing would be brought to justice.
"None of the culprits will be spared from legal action," Hasina said.
A trial date has not yet been set.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.