Four sentenced to death over brutal Afghan mob killing

Afghan court begins ruling on woman’s murder case, sentencing four men to death by hanging and eight others to jail.

An Afghan court has sentenced four men to death by hanging for their roles in the mob killing of a woman in March.

The trial of 49 suspects, who were accused of taking part in the mob that killed the 27-year-old, known as Farkhunda, began on May 2. Nineteen police officers were among those facing charges in the trial.

Of the suspects sentenced on Wednesday, four were sentenced to death, eight were sentenced to 16 years in jail and 18 were set free due to a lack of evidence, Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse reported.

The judge adjourned the case until Saturday, when the remaining 19 will be sentenced.

Prosecutors have alleged that Farkhunda was beaten to death in a frenzied attack sparked by a bogus accusation that she had burned a copy of the Quran.

Glasse said the remaing 19 suspects are policemen, but their fate is still unclear.

“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,” she said

“Earlier this week the police said in court that they tried to to do their job and called for reinforcements but reinforcements did not come. The prosecutor told the police it is their job to protect her.

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“This is really a test for the justice system, this case that has captured the attention of the nation. The trial has been televised live everyday and Afghans have been watching very closely.”

The defendants have the right to appeal their sentences. The charges included assault, murder and encouraging others to participate in the assault. The police officers were charged with neglecting their duties and failing to prevent the attack.

Mujub Ullah Farkunda, Farkhunda’s brother, told Al Jazeera they were not happy with the outcome.

“They have wasted our time. The trial only happened because of pressure from the government. The real perpetrators were not there. 

“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,” Mujub added.

Farkhunda’s brutal killing shocked many Afghans, though some public and religious figures said it would have been justified if she had in fact damaged a Quran. A presidential investigation later found that she had not damaged a copy of the Muslim holy book.

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Her last agonising and brutal hours were captured on mobile phone cameras by witnesses and those in the mob that attacked her. The videos of the assault circulated widely on social media.

They showed Farkhunda – who, like many Afghans, went by only one name – being beaten, run over with a car and burned before her bloodied body was thrown into the river.

The incident sparked nationwide outrage and soul-searching, as well as a civil society movement seeking to limit the power of clerics, strengthen the rule of law and improve women’s rights.

Source: Al Jazeera, AP