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Court tells Bangladeshi parents to free daughter

December 15, 2008

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DHAKA, Dec 14 A Bangladeshi doctor whose parents were accused of holding her captive in the capital Dhaka for more than four months is free to return to her home in Britain, a court ruled on Sunday.

Judge Syed Mahmod Hossain ordered Humayra Abedin's parents to return her passport, driver's licence and credit card.

“It perplexes me as to why the parents kept her confined and interfered with her personal life,” said Hossain. “I am shocked.” Her father wailed out loudly following the verdict and had to be propped up as he left the courtroom.

Humayra, 32, travelled to Bangladesh on Aug 3 after she was told by family members that her mother was seriously ill. She had planned to return to Britain soon after, but informed a female cousin that her family were holding her captive and planned to force her to marry a stranger.

Humayra — the only child — reportedly has a Hindu boyfriend in London, which has angered her Muslim family.

Her lawyer, Sara Hossain, said after the verdict “Our courts have shown that we can guarantee the liberty of our citizens. This is quite a precedent.” Her parents returned to the court with her passport within an hour of the judge's ruling but said they did not have her driver's licence or credit card.

Humayra was taken from the court to the British High Commission in Dhaka under heavy police escort and was expected to leave Bangladesh for Britain late Sunday.

Bangladeshi police visited her parents' home in August, but her mother and father would not allow Humayra to speak to officers without them present. They told police they would bring their daughter to the local police station the following day but did not turn up.

Outside the courtroom, her father Joynal said that he and his wife had done nothing wrong.

“She has not been held captive. These allegations are all false,” he said.

Last month the British government introduced a law allowing courts to stop forced marriages and provide protection to British nationals who have been married against their will.

Lawyers in Britain had filed a case in London on Humayra's behalf under the new Forced Marriage Act, on the basis she was a resident of that country.

Humayra is however not a British national.

The British High Commission in Dhaka said it assisted in 56 forced marriage cases between April 2007 and March 2008.—AFP