An Afghan appeals court sentenced five men to death on Monday, for armed robbery and sexual assault while invalidating the death sentences given to two other defendants reducing them to 20 years in prison for unrelated crimes.

The defendants were accused of attacking an Afghan family driving home from a wedding outside of Kabul.

Prosecutors said that the group of eight men, some dressed in police uniform stopped the family's car last month and raped the four women in the group, one of whom was pregnant, in an area close to the capital known as Paghman. 

The family members were beaten and robbed by the attackers.

Earlier this month, a lower court sentenced seven of them to death. A trail that lasted only two hours before the convictions were announced.

Street demonstrations in support of the victims took place as the penalties were announced.

While Human Rights Watch said the political interference and swift convictions violated the defendants' rights to due process.

"The police and court have responded to a horrific crime with a botched trial that makes a mockery of justice for both victims and defendants," Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement earlier this month.

"This case sadly demonstrates that the Afghan justice system, despite more than a decade of promised reform, still has a long way to go before genuine justice is handed down."

Judge Haqiqqi, who lead the appeals court , believes the case will be appealed to Afghanistan's Supreme Court.

Source: Agencies