Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bangladeshi doctors to face music for doctored autopsy report in flogging death

SALEEM SAMAD

FOUR BANGLADESH doctors in a government hospital will face music after probe committee found the post-mortem report of flogging death of Hena Begum was deliberately doctored.

A probe document submitted to the High Court on Thursday reveals that fifteen-year-old Begum of a sleepy town in west Bangladesh was raped by her 40-year-old cousin. Days later the village elders and Mullahs of the mosque ordered 101 lashes following a Fatwa (religious edict) in local arbitration on January 24.

Hena Akhter could not survive after 70 blows and collapsed. She was hospitalized but died a week later, and her death was judged a suicide by a local government hospital.

An independent English newspaper Daily Star in a first page article on February 7 raised doubts about the autopsy report from the small towns, which prompted the court to issue directives the same day for exhumation of Begum's body and a fresh autopsy.

An initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Begum's body was exhumed on orders from the High Court and a second autopsy concluded that she had died from wounds "of a homicidal nature" on her scalp, abdomen, back, chest, arms and legs.

The girl child’s death provoked widespread outrage in Bangladesh, where punishments in the name of Fatwa were outlawed last July.

The High Court asked the government to indict 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 her death."

The report stated that the doctors of Shariatpur General Hospital and district Civil Surgeon are “equally” guilty for deliberately not mentioning the injury marks on Begum's body. “The civil surgeon's negligence in preparing the autopsy report has been proved which is against medical ethics,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the police chief recommends departmental actions against two police officers who were accomplice of false investigation report.

"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. [ENDS]

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

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