Human Rights Forum calls for fair probe, trial into death of teenage maid at Daily Star executive editor’s home

TBS Report

12 February, 2024, 06:35 pm

Last modified: 12 February, 2024, 06:37 pm

Representational image. Photo: Unsplash

Representational image. Photo: Unsplash

Representational image. Photo: Unsplash

The Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) has demanded a fair investigation and trial over the death of a teenage maid at the home of Executive Editor of The Daily Star Syed Ashfaqul Haque and his wife Tania Khondoker.

Expressing deep concern over the incident in a statement today (12 February), the organisation also called for ensuring safety of the victim’s family.

Earlier on 7 February, a Dhaka court denied bail and sent The Daily Star Executive Editor Syed Ashfaqul Haque and his wife Tania Khondoker to jail over the death of a teenage maid at their home in Mohammadpur. 

To prevent recurrence of such incidents and ensure the safety of domestic workers, the forum also called for putting an end to the practice of hiring children as domestic workers and taking help from public and private organisations in this regard.

It also called for properly implementing the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy, 2015, and enacting laws for the protection of domestic workers in the light of this policy.

The organisation advocated for the inclusion of domestic workers in the list of hazardous occupations.

It also recommended that proactive steps from state agencies should be taken to strengthen registration of domestic workers.

Earlier on Tuesday, police detained the journalist and three other members of his family over the death of the domestic help.

On Wednesday, Lukesh Urang, the deceased girl’s father, filed a case with Mohammadpur Police Station against the couple under Penal Code’s section 304A, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner (Mohammadpur Zone) Azizul Haque told The Business Standard.

This penal code section stipulates punishment for causing death due to rash or negligent acts, not amounting to culpable homicide, with imprisonment or fines.

“Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with a fine, or with both,” reads the penal code.

On Tuesday, the house help, Preeti Urang, 15, fell from the ninth floor and sustained heavy injury. After being taken to a nearby hospital, the on-duty doctor declared her dead.  

The body was then sent to the morgue of Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital for postmortem

Following the incident, police detained four members of the family, including two children of the journalist, and took them to Mohammadpur Police Station for questioning.

A day later, the two children were allowed to go.

In the case statement, Lukesh Urang said his daughter had been sent to Dhaka two years ago to work as a maid, aiming to alleviate their family’s financial struggles. Throughout this period, Preeti never visited her family, with Lukesh relying on occasional phone calls to the house owner to stay in touch.

Lukesh Urang, as the plaintiff, also said that Preeti fell from the 8th floor of apartment No. 2/7 in Mohammadpur’s Shahjahan Road area around 8am on Tuesday due to the absence of safety bars on the window of the flat’s drawing space. He highlighted that a similar incident occurred last year on 4 August, where another housekeeper sustained severe injuries from falling out of the same window.

Lukesh attributed these repeated accidents to the negligence and carelessness of the house owner and occupants, emphasising the lack of protective barriers on the windows as the root cause.

Furthermore, the case document mentioned that the arrestees failed to provide satisfactory explanations when questioned about the absence of safety bars on their windows and the recurring nature of such accidents.

On 6 August last year, another domestic worker, Ferdausi, fell from the balcony of Syed Ashfaqul Haque’s home and was seriously injured.

She was rescued and treated first at the Suhrawardy Hospital and later at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Josna Begum, the mother of the injured domestic worker, then filed a case with Mohammadpur Police Station against Syed Ashfaqul Haque, his wife Tania Khondoker and another person named Asma Akhtar.

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