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I am now free, says woman as parents are jailed over forced Bangladesh marriage

Court news
Court news

A husband and wife described as "monsters" by a daughter they threatened with death if she did not go ahead with a forced marriage in Bangladesh have both been jailed.

The man was sent to prison for four-and-a-half years at Leeds Crown Court on Monday and his wife was jailed for three-and-a-half years by a judge who heard that their 18-year-old daughter had to be rescued from a remote village in a dramatic operation by the British High Commission involving armed police.

None of those involved can be named.

In an impact statement read to the court, the woman, who is from Leeds and is now 20, described how she has had to assume a new identity and now lives in fear and hiding from her family and community.

She said: "I know I will always have to remain cautious but, knowing those monsters are going to be in prison, I feel the uttermost freedom in my heart."

She went on: "I want other girls to know that forcing someone to marry is wrong.

"I want to be able to give a message to my siblings and other people who find themselves in this situation that life does go on.

"I want my elders to know that it is illegal and you can't treat family like this.

"I want to be able to hold my head high knowing that I stood up for what is right.

"I want to be able to live knowing that I will not be a victim for my parents' honour and reputation.

"I will not live in shame. I am now free."

The court heard how the woman was taken to Bangladesh with other members of her family for what they were told was a holiday.

But their parents had made extensive plans for her wedding to her first cousin.

Once she was told what was to happen, she reacted vehemently against it and her father hit her, the court heard, with her mother's encouragement.

The judge was told how her father said he would "chop her up in 18 seconds" if she continued to reject the proposed marriage.

But she managed to alert the police through her boyfriend in the UK and the court heard some of her desperate messages she left for him on his phone.

Judge Simon Phillips QC said of the recordings: "Her terror and distress is palpable."

The High Commission was alerted and managed to get her out of the village using three different sets of armed escorts.

Judge Phillips heard how she escaped with only the clothes she was wearing and a Leeds bus pass.

And he was told how she was billed £1,000 for her flight home, which she was allowed to pay back in £5 instalments after she arrived back in the UK in what the judge called "a state of destitution and complete abandonment".

In her statement, the woman said she had had no contact with her family except for one call with her mother.

She said: "She proved to me during that call that she had no intention of ever loving me or being sorry for what they had done. My thought was 'you're evil'."

The woman said: "I was betrayed by the two people who are supposed to protect, love and keep you safe."

The court heard how the woman was born in the UK, lived a Westernised lifestyle and was hoping to go to university.

Dafydd Enoch QC, defending her father, told the court: "These events are not borne out of malice, hate, greed or prejudice. They were borne of deep-seated culture."

He said: "The reaction of her community demonstrates how embedded that is."

Mr Enoch said the roots of his client's actions were "not in evil but in generations of accepted behaviour".

The defendants showed no emotion as they were given the prison sentences but the wife shook her head as the judge ordered that more than £8,000 found on the couple when they were arrested should be given to their daughter.

He told the pair he believed the cash was to have been used for the abandoned wedding.

They were found guilty earlier this year of forced marriage and a count of using violence, threats or coercion to force their daughter into marriage, following a three-week trial.

It is thought to be only the second case of its kind.

The verdicts came less than a week after a woman was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Birmingham Crown Court after forcing her daughter to marry in Pakistan, in the first successful prosecution.