Protests spread across the country on Tuesday against the assault on a Noakhali woman, sexual offence against her and subsequent online release of a torture video.
Anti-rape protesters in Dhaka scuffled with police as they marched towards the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Police clubbed the protesters and foiled the agitation.
Meanwhile, the victim yesterday told the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (NHRC) that the main accused of the recent incident had raped her multiple times a year ago at gunpoint.
The latest incident took place on 2 September as the culprits entered the house, beat up the 53-year-old woman's husband, tied him up and assaulted her after stripping her naked. They filmed the whole incident on their mobile phones and later uploaded it to social media.
After the video went viral, police took her in safe custody and the victim filed two cases under the Women and Child Repression Act and Digital Security Act.
On Tuesday, Chhatra Union leaders and workers gathered in front of the National Museum at Shahbagh around noon as part of an anti-rape demonstration. Writers, poets, artists and women's rights activists participated in the protest.
Around 1:15 pm, the rally hoisted a black flag and started marching towards the PMO from Shahbagh. They were barricaded by the police at the intersection of the Hotel Intercontinental.
Police charged batons on the protesters and injured several Chhatra Union members. The rally then took position at the intersection and continued the demonstration, demanding punishment to the alleged rapists.
Protesters demanded capital punishment of the culprits and implementation of effective measures so that such incidents do not recur. The demonstration lasted half an hour before the protesters retreated to the Dhaka University TSC area.
When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Ramna Division) Sajjadur Rahman said the police did not instigate any clashes and acted in self-defence when attacked by the protesters.
We acted promptly: Home minister
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan yesterday said stern action will be taken against the criminals involved in torturing and humiliating the woman.
"Immediate legal action is waiting for them," said the minister while talking to reporters at the Secretariat.
Describing the incident as a heinous act, he said, "We swung into action as soon as we received the information. Almost all the culprits have already been arrested."
Asked why the police acted a month after the incident, the minister said, "We took action as soon as we got the information. Victims often do not want to report such incidents. Even then, law enforcers have taken action immediately."
Besides, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said there is no need for any protests for justice in rape cases.
The road, transport and bridges minister said the government took action against all crimes on its own, and it did not show any partiality towards anyone.
"Rape is a form of terrorism, and the government never exempted any criminal involved in rape or murder," he said.
She was also raped previously at gunpoint: NHRC
The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (NHRC) yesterday said the woman from Begumganj had been raped twice nearly a year ago by the same main accused of the recent incident.
The commission said it will file a separate lawsuit against Delwar Hossain – the main accused in the assault case – and the commission lawyers will run the case.
The victim described the horrific crime to an NHRC inquiry team visiting her; the team recorded her statement and addressed the media afterwards.
Al-Mahmoud Faizul Kabir, chief of the NHRC probe team and also a commission director, told the press that Delwar had been making illicit proposals and had threatened her for quite a long time.
"About a year ago, Delwar broke into her house and raped her for the first time at gunpoint. Then, a few days before the end of Ramadan, Delwar called the victim to a boat to meet one of his associates," narrated NHRC Director Faizul Kabir.
"Delwar raped the woman for the second time there," he added.
Faizul Kabir said they will file a separate case against Delwar and his associate Kalam in this regard. He also provided assurances that NHRC panel lawyers will take charge of the case.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Delwar from Narayanganj on Sunday night with arms and ammunition, while bombs were recovered in another raid from his fishery in Noakhali. RAB said though Delwar was not named in the two cases, he is the main culprit who led the assault.
In an arms case filed with the Siddhirganj Police Station, a court placed the accused on a two-day remand.
Meantime, Noakhali Superintendent of Police, Md Alamgir Hossain, said appropriate action will be taken after investigating the new allegations by the woman.
Two more arrested
Police on Tuesday arrested two more suspects, including a Union Parishad member, taking the number of arrestees to six.
The arrestees are Saju, and local Union Parishad Member Mozammel Hossain Shohag.
Saju was arrested in Dhaka's Shahbagh, while Noakhali police detained Shohag from his hometown.
On Sunday, police arrested Rahim and Rahmatullah, while RAB arrested Badal and prime accused, Delwar Hossain. Of the accused, Shaju, Badal and Delwar are on remand in different cases.