The Bangladeshi international cricketer Shahadat Hossain has been charged with physically torturing an 11-year-old girl he and his wife kept as a domestic servant, in a case that has shocked cricket fans.
Hossain, 29, who is considered a hero by many younger Bangladeshis, faces charges carrying a potential 14 years in prison, plus a fine, and has been suspended from all cricket until further notice by the Bangladeshi cricket board.
The alleged victim, Mahfuza Akhter, known as Happy, was found in September on a street in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, with multiple injuries, including a broken leg. She told investigators that she had been working for the couple for a year.
“They used to beat me with sticks, kitchen utensils, punch me, and scratch me. I would be slapped a lot,” Akhter was quoted as saying by international media, which carried pictures of her swollen and bruised face on the day she was found.
Police submitted the charges against Hossain and his wife, Nritto Shahadat, to the Dhaka metropolitan magistrates court on Tuesday, under legislation designed to protect women and children from domestic abuse.
Both were bailed earlier this month after a brief spell in prison following their arrests in October. They had fled their homes after the initial case was filed, leading police to carry out raids at locations including Hossain’s ancestral village.
Hossain was only arrested on 5 October, after four weeks on the run, when he turned himself into police a day after his wife was arrested at her parents’ house in Dhaka. Both were held in custody until courts granted them bail.
Akhter was found by a passerby in a street in Dhaka’s Mirpur district on 6 September, hours after Hossain filed a police complaint claiming his servant had gone missing, according to Bangladeshi media. She was taken to a hospital, then a police station where she made her allegations against Hossain and his wife.
In an interview with CNN, Akhter said she was kept locked in Hossain’s household, forced to sleep in a bathroom and given only leftovers to eat, until she decided to risk a life on the streets rather than continue suffering in domestic bondage.
“When the house maid came inside the house, she opened the door. While the door was open, I ran out of the house,” she said. “I was in a lot of pain. While I was walking on the road, people were staring at me. I covered my eye because it was bruised and it was hurting.”
Akhter says she does not know where her parents are, and that it was her grandmother who sent her to work in Hossain’s home, because the family needed money.
Child labour remains common in Bangladesh with many families relying on the income their children generate for survival, despite a ban on employing anyone under-14 introduced in 2006. That same year, 12.8% – 4.7 million – of the country’s children were employed, according to the UN Children’s Fund. Of those children, 421,000 were domestic workers.
According to a 2014 report by the US Department of Labor, about 10% of children aged between 5 and 12 were in work, about a third of whom were working in services such as domestic help.
Hossain and his wife will appear in court on 12 January, where they will face charges under Bangladesh’s Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, which stipulates prison terms of between seven and 14 years for anyone who causes damage or disfigurement to a woman or child.
The only Bangladeshi bowler to be listed on the Lord’s honours board, Hossain has become something of a legend to his home supporters since representing Bangladesh in the Under-19 World Cup.
On a tour of Zimbabwe in July 2006, the medium-fast bowler became the first Bangladeshi to take a hat-trick in one-day internationals, and a phenomenal six for 27 against the South Africa in 2008 was his best Test performance to date.
But it was on Bangladesh’s second Test tour of England in 2010, when he picked up five for 98 in England’s first innings of the first Test at Lord’s, that earned him the place in the ground’s hall of fame.