Death sentence handed down after Afghan gang-rape

Seven men in Afghanistan will be executed for the gang-rape of a group of women, but human rights groups express concern about the speed of the trial

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A court in Afghanistan has sentenced to death seven men for the gang-rape and robbery of a group of women in a crime that stunned the nation.

Police said a large group of men, some of them wearing police uniforms and others armed with automatic weapons, stopped the women as they were returning from a wedding with their families. Four of the women were forced from the vehicles and dragged into nearby fields where they were assaulted, within earshot of their relatives.

The men also beat and robbed the women, one of whom was pregnant, during the incident last month in the Paghman district, just outside of the capital city, Kabul.

During a summary trial held on Sunday and which was televised across Afghanistan, Judge Safihullah Mujadidi convicted the men of armed robbery and sexual assault.

 “Based on criminal law these individuals are sentenced to the severest punishment, which is the death sentence,” he told the heavily guarded courtroom, according to Reuters.

Women are often the victims of violence in Afghanistan but campaigners say much of it takes place in the home. Officials said they could not recall an incident like this happening before in Kabul.

There have been demands for the men, aged between 19 and 35, to be executed quickly but they can appeal the case to a higher court.

President Hamid Karzai would have to sign off on any death sentence, according to Afghan law. Last week, Mr Karzai told a delegation of women that the perpetrators would indeed face execution.

Yet some campaigners have expressed worry about how quickly the trial was held. Patricia Gossman, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said on social media: “[A] heinous crime should not mean suspending due process rights. Where is the rule of law?”