An Afghan court sentenced four men to death by hanging on Wednesday for their roles in the mob killing of a woman in March.
Farkhunda, a 27-year-old Afghan woman, was killed March 19 after being accused of burning a copy of the Quran, although an investigation later determined she never did. The attack was captured on cell phone cameras and distributed across social media networks. Video shows Farkhunda being beaten, thrown from a roof, run over by a car, set on fire, and dragged to a river bank. Forty-nine suspects were accused of taking part in the mob, including 19 police officers.
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Eight defendants were sentenced to 16 years in prison, and several others are scheduled to be sentenced on Sunday. Judge Safiullah Mojadedi dismissed the cases against 18 of the defendants. Prosecutors for the case said, “The 19 men still to be sentenced are policemen and that will be the interesting part of this trial because the Afghan law number 354 makes failure to render assistance a crime here and they too could be sentenced to jail.”
During the four-day trial, defense attorneys for the policemen argued that “the officers tried to do their job and called for reinforcements but reinforcements did not come.”
Farkhunda’s brutal killing has led to increased calls for the Afghan government to protect women from violence. After this vicious murder, many women and their families feel empowered to speak about the atrocities that happen to women in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, they also doubt any significant change will be made.
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Mujub Ullah Farkunda, Farkhunda’s brother, told Al Jazeera News, “They have wasted our time. The trial only happened because of pressure from the government. The real perpetrators were not there.” He added, “The government didn’t arrest the real murderers. They arrested innocent people off the street and have hidden the real perpetrators. There were more than 100 people involved and they sentenced only 4 to death.”
Last February, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign a law passed by parliament that some say could have denied women protection from domestic violence and forced marriage. In 2014, Amnesty International called on the Afghan Parliament to take all necessary measures to fully and effectively implement the 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women law throughout the country.
The law criminalized some 20 acts of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, underage and forced marriages, and the exchange of girls in marriage as part of a dowry or blood price (“baad”). It has made great strides in recognizing a woman’s human right to be protected from violence and harmful practices.
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