The main accused was not named in any of the two cases filed over the incident
It took at least 32 days for the heinous crime of Noakhali housewife torture and rape to come to be widely known and eventually the attention of law enforcement agencies.
The incident took place on September 2, but police learned about it only after a video went viral on social media.
On the night of September 2, the victim from Begumganj upazila of Noakhali was brutally tortured, with some men stripping her clothes off and filming the incident on mobile phones.
The accused did not stop there. They demanded ransom and made illicit proposals.
As she did not respond to the proposal, they released the disturbing video on Facebook on Sunday afternoon, which was then watched by thousands of netizens.
The victim, a 35-year-old, filed two cases on Sunday night with Begumganj Police Station – one against nine men and the other against seven to eight men from the first case.
The cases were filed under the Women and Children Repression Act and the Digital Security Act.
Noakhali Superintendent of Police Md Alamgir Hossain said police learned about the matter only after the video went viral on social media.
"We took immediate action. The victim has been rescued and legal action is being taken against the perpetrators according to the victim's statement," he added.
The father of the victim said he was unable to gather the courage to come forward as the perpetrators are influential people. He now seeks justice for his daughter.
The accused in the two cases are Badol, 22, Abdur Rahim, 20, Abul Kalam, 22, Ishrafil Hossain, 22, Saju, 21, Shamsuddin alias Sumon, 39, Abdur Rob alias Chowdhury Miah, 48, Arif, 18, and Rahmat Ullah, 41.
However, the main accused, Delwar Hossain, was not mentioned in any of the cases. Police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested four people, including the prime accused.
RAB arrested Delwar and Badol from Narayanganj and Dhaka respectively on Monday. In the meantime, Noakhali police arrested Abdur Rahim and Rahmat Ullah.
RAB-11 Commanding Officer Khandakar Saiful Alam told the media the nine accused in the case are members of Delwar Bahini and the brutal incident took place as per his direction.
RAB also seized a pistol, a magazine, and two rounds of bullets from Delwar's possession.
"Delwar has been harassing the housewife for a long time," a senior RAB official wishing not to be named told The Business Standard.
"Although Delwar was not named in the case, further interrogation will reveal whether he was involved in it."
When asked why the main accused was not mentioned in any of the cases, the Noakhali superintendent of police declined to comment.
"We tracked down and rescued the 'absconding' housewife from her sister's house in Maijdee. She was then taken to police custody where she filed the cases," he added.
Senior Judicial Magistrate Mashfiqul Haque Monday recorded the victim's statement while she broke into tears, according to court sources.
Meanwhile, the High Court Monday ordered the authorities concerned to remove the video from the internet. It ordered the formation of a committee to investigate if there was any negligence of duty by police with regards to the incident.
It also asked the authorities concerned to provide all kinds of security for the victim's family.
What happened that night?
Locals and the police said the victim had been staying at her father's house in Joykrishnapur village of Ekhlaspur union for several months after a dispute with her husband.
The victim in her statement said her daughter had got married a month before the incident took place.
She contacted her husband as her daughter requested her to settle the dispute with him. Later, the husband visited her house on September 2.
According to the case statement, the accused entered the house and beat up her husband on the night of September 2. They took him to the adjacent room and tied him up.
They then tortured the victim and assaulted her after stripping her naked. They filmed the incident on their mobile phones.
At one point, locals gathered outside the house hearing the victim's cries for help. The accused threatened her, saying they would kill her if she spoke about the incident, and left.
According to the first information report, the accused ostracised the victim and her family for days and later forced them to leave the village.
The victim, fearing for her life, fled from her home and had been living elsewhere since then.
The accused, however, contacted her on phone and threatened to release the recorded video of the incident on social media if she did not return to her home and agree to their proposals.
"As I did not agree to their immoral proposals, they released the video on social media on October 4," the victim said in the statement.
In a statement to the Begumganj police station, the victim said, "I only request that they be given death penalty or life imprisonment. I do not want anything else. If this happened to some other women, they would have committed suicide. But I refrained myself from not doing so.
"Death would have been better than what happened to me."
She added, "I went to the local union member seeking justice. But he did not take any steps. But, for a vulnerable woman like me, it was not possible to go to the police or any higher authorities."
Regarding the protest happening across the country condemning the incident, she said, "If this helps any other woman or girl facing the same situation, that alone is enough justice for me."
Rights bodies condemn the incident
Supporters of Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Odhikar Songrokkhon Parishad led by Dhaka University Central Students' Union Vice-President Nurul Haque Nur staged a demonstration in the capital's Shahbagh and blocked the road on Monday.
They formed a human chain and demanded that the culprits be immediately brought under trial.
Besides, rights organisations in the country expressed anger and deep concerns over the incident.
Manusher Jonno Foundation, Ain o Salish Kendra, Naripokkho, Breaking the Silence, Praggoswar, CWCS, and We Can strongly condemned the incident and the perpetrators.
Manusher Jonno Foundation Executive Director, Shaheen Anam said, "We are stunned and deeply saddened by the incident. Such incidents are increasing due to the culture of impunity. Women rarely get justice for the repression they suffer."
Ain o Salish Kendra said 975 women had been raped in the first nine months of this year. Of them, 208 were gang raped.
The rights bodies demanded exemplary punishment for culprits who rape women and children. They also called for giving the perpetrators the highest possible punishment under the existing law.
They think such crimes are increasing due to the lack of exemplary punishment.
They also called for a proper investigation into the Noakhali incident and punishment of the culprits through the proper legal process.