Afghanistan's outgoing president Hamid Karzai has approved the execution of five men for armed robbery and sexual assault, his spokesman has said.

"President Karzai signed off today on the order for execution of five criminals convicted of rape and kidnapping in Paghman incident," Aimal Faizi tweeted on Saturday.

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

Prosecutors said earlier this month that a group of seven 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 Paghman, which is close to the capital city of Kabul.

"We went to Paghman with our families. On the way back, they took us, one of them put his gun on my head, the other one took all our jewellery, and the rest started what you already know," one victim told the court earlier in September.

The five men were sentenced to death by an appeals court after a short trial, while two were handed 20-year jail terms.

The death sentence had been well-received by many demonstrators who were outside the court, but Human Rights Watch criticised the Afghan justice system saying political interference and swift convictions violated the defendants' rights to due process.

Karzai had promised the men would be executed when found guilty before the trial took place.

The rights group said that the police and court "responded to a horrific crime with a botched trial that makes a mockery of justice for both victims and defendants".

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies