Police have turned the murder of Dhaka University student Elma Chowdhury Meghla into suicide by tampering with autopsy and subsequent probe reports for money, Elma's family has claimed.
"My daughter was tortured to death but police helped the accused go free by turning the murder into suicide," Sharmin Chowdhury, mother of Elma, said at a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital on Wednesday.
"The probe report by the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police in the case was biased as police were influenced by money and power of the accused," she added.
"During the ghusl before the funeral, wounds were seen on several parts of my daughter's body. Her body even had burns from cigarettes," the mother said and broke into tears.
She said the forensic report of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) had been changed forcefully. "There is no similarity between the autopsy report and the police inquest report."
"We heard the DMCH forensic department chief was called by the DB office and he was forced to tamper with the autopsy report," she claimed and raised the question of why a forensic doctor needed to meet DB officials to prepare an autopsy report.
Immediately after the event, The Business Standard contacted Dr Mohammad Maksud, head of the Forensic Medicine Department at the DMCH. "We have already submitted the autopsy report to the court. We have nothing more to say," he added.
When contacted, DB Deputy Commissioner for Gulshan division Mashiur Rahman told TBS that none of the accused and victim's families were their relatives, which was why there was no room for partiality there.
"We submitted the probe report to the court based on the autopsy report and with the consultation of the DMCH forensic head. We also met the plaintiffs and defendants several times. Even Elma's department [Dhaka University Dance Department] chairperson has been kept informed of all the updates from time to time," he added.
At Wednesday's event, Sharmin Chowdhury also claimed that the judge granted bail for the prime accused, Elma's husband Iftekhar Abedin, on 19 April in an unprecedented way.
Echoing Sharmin Chowdhury, the plaintiff's lawyer Barrister M Sarwar Hossain noted that the way in which Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge Emrul Kayesh accepted the bail plea had never been seen in his 20 years in the law profession.
"It is unprecedented and a violation of the law. Usually, an investigating officer submits a probe report to the general record section of the court and the judge sees the report at a fixed date. But, in this case, the accused himself submitted a photocopy of the probe report and sought bail even before the police officially submitted the probe report.
"Later, the judge called the investigation officer and granted bail to the prime accused on 19 April."
The Business Standard also tried several times to contact the prime accused Iftekhar Abedin, who has now been on bail, but he could not be reached.
Elma Chowdhury Meghla, 25, who was a student of the Dance Department at Dhaka University, died on 14 December last year. In the afternoon on the day, Elma's husband Iftekhar Abedin phoned his uncle-in-law Iqbal Hossain and informed him that Elma was being taken to United Hospital after she had "fallen ill". Elma's relatives rushed to the hospital then, but she had already passed away.
Citing doctors, the relatives then said Elma had died long before she was brought to the hospital. They also saw signs of physical torture on her body and claimed that she was murdered. Later, police recovered the body.
Elma's father Saiful Islam filed a case against her husband Iftekhar and his parents with Banani Police Station then. The police had detained the husband of the Dhaka University student, while the two other accused went into hiding.
Meghla wed Iftekhar, a Bangladeshi expatriate living in Canada, in the middle of last year. Iftekhar was staying in Canada after the marriage while Meghla started living with her in-laws in Dhaka's Banani. Iftekhar returned home three days before Elma's death.