Pakistan Court Overturns Rape Conviction
Pakistani Court Orders Release of Five Men Suspected
of Gang-Raping Woman
News, March 3, 2005
By Khalid Tanveer, The Associated Press
Mai, victim of a gang rape, sheds tears after a court's decision in
Multan, Pakistan on Thursday, March 3, 2005. The Pakistani court on
Thursday overturned the conviction of a village elder and four other men
who had been sentenced to death for allegedly ordering a woman
gang-raped as punishment for her brother's illicit sex with a woman from
another family, a defense lawyer said. (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)
A Pakistani court Thursday overturned the conviction of a
village elder and four other men who had been sentenced to death for allegedly
ordering a woman gang-raped as punishment for her brother’s illicit sex with
a woman from another family, a defense lawyer said.
The rape of the woman in 2002 in a mud-brick house in a
village in central Pakistan made world headlines, and led the government to
promise sweeping changes to end centuries of so-called “honor” killings
Six men, including village council chief Faiz Mastoi,
were later convicted and sentenced to death. But the court overturned the
sentences Thursday, citing a lack of evidence. Mastoi and four others were
ordered released and the sixth man’s death sentence was reduced to life in
prison, said Ramzan Joya, a lawyer for the woman.
The woman, Mukhtar Mai, was in court and wept upon
hearing the court’s decision.
“I am in pain. I will ask my lawyer to challenge this
decision,” she told reporters. Mai came forward publicly following the
attack in an effort to press the government to seek justice, and her name has
been widely published. She has been honored by human rights groups in Pakistan
for her courage.
Joya confirmed that he would appeal the verdict, and it
was not clear if the men would be released immediately. None was present in
court at the time of the ruling.
In their ruling, judges on the High Court said there were
contradictions in statements of witnesses and the case prepared by the
prosecution, said Joya. Defense lawyer Pervez Aftab said he was happy with the
The ruling angered human rights activists who have been
urging the government for several years to enact legislation that would strip
tribal councils of their power to mete out punishments.
“I am shocked,” said Shahnaz Bukhari, a leading
women’s activist in Islamabad. She said Mai’s case was not “investigated
“Mukhtar Mai is not safe. These resourceful people who
were convicted will seek revenge on that poor woman,” she said, adding that
the country’s legal system needs to be amended so that perpetrators of such
violence do not escape punishment.
Joya said his client had taken a bold decision by raising
her voice against the rape in the village of Meerwala, about 350 miles
southwest of the capital, Islamabad.
The woman, who still lives in the village along with her
family, has said she begged the attackers not to rape her, but they ignored
The victim’s family is from the Gujar clan while the
attackers were from a clan considered socially higher called Mastoi.
The woman has denied her brother had relations with a
women from the Mastoi clan. She said the clan fabricated this story to cover
up another incident in which her brother was allegedly sexually assaulted by
The woman and her family went to the police in June 2002
after a local cleric assured her of his support.
During the trial in 2002, the woman was questioned for
days by the defense and on one occasion wept when the defense lawyer sought
minute details of the rape.
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