Afghan court overturns death sentences for four men who murdered woman in mob attack

The four men have had their sentences reduced to 20 and 10 years in prison

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The Independent Online

An Afghan court has overturned death sentences for four men convicted of murdering a woman accused of burning the Koran in a shocking mob attack.

Three of the men convicted of killing Farkhunda Malikzada had their sentences reduced to 20 years with a fourth sentenced to just 10 years in prison.

She was killed by a mob when a peddler at the Shah-Du Shamshira mosque in Kabul falsely accused her of burning the holy book after she argued with him in March.

The crowd punched, kicked, beat her with wooden planks, threw her from a roof, ran over her with a car and crushed her with a block of concrete while the police watched.

The ruling was made behind closed doors in by Appeals Court Judge Abdul Nasir Murid on Wednesday and first reported by independent Afghan TV station, Tolo TV.

The channel also said the court acquitted the peddler who originally falsely accused Farkhunda.

So far of the 49 people convicted, including 19 policeman who were convicted of dereliction of duty, 37 were released last month ahead of appeal.

The court’s decision is said to have outraged her family who have said they are still waiting for justice.

Human rights campaigners have also condemned the decision saying the court had bowed to pressure from the conservative religious establishment and failed to uphold the rule of law.

 kabul-men.jpgShukria Barakzai, an Afghan women’s rights campaigner called the decision unconstitutional saying “The courts should be open to the public, and this closed-door hearing undermines the credibility of the sentences.”

Farkhunda, 27, was a devout Muslim and was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

The attack has lead to calls for reform and stronger protect for women from violence. At Farkhunda’s funeral women broke with tradition to carry her coffin themselves in defiance of the men who killed her.

Meanwhile her family fear for their lives and no longer leave the house as the members of the mob are released from prison.

The adults don’t work and the children don’t go to school.

Farkhunda’s father Mohammad Nader Malikzada said: “We cannot live a normal life, our children cannot go to school or college, we can’t even go shopping.

“We are under such psychological pressure. It is hell in this house.”

In the days after Farkhunda’s murder, the First lady Rula Ghani met with the family and described it as a “horrible, barbaric tragedy”.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press