Afghan gang rape: Seven men given death sentences

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Media captionAs Charles Haviland reports, the case has sparked protests in Afghanistan

Seven Afghan men have been sentenced to death following a gang rape case that has sparked national outrage.

The men were found guilty of attacking four women who were returning to Kabul after a wedding in August.

Only five of the seven were found guilty of rape but the death sentences were handed to all seven for the armed robbery.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had been among those who called for the men to be executed.

Activists say violence against women is prevalent in Afghanistan, but rarely attract this much attention.

Human Rights Watch said that many women in Afghanistan who reported rapes to police ended up being arrested for adultery.

Police uniforms

The men were said to have carried out the attack on 23 August.

Police said the men were wearing police uniforms when they stopped a convoy of cars near Paghman, a town near Kabul. The men pulled out four of the women, separated them from their husbands and robbed and attacked them.

Image caption All seven men were given death sentences - but still have the option to appeal

At least one of the victims had to spend a week in hospital following the attack. Another was said to be pregnant.

Seven of the 10 men thought to be involved were arrested on Wednesday, with the remaining three on the run.

The trial on Sunday lasted two and a half hours.

The accused were all dressed in dark red, their hands covered with black fabric and their hands and feet chained, the BBC's Samiullah Mosazai reports from Kabul Primary Court.

One of the accused was 35 and others were between 19 and 27 years old, our correspondent adds.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption One of the men brought to testify in court on Sunday
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Demonstrations were held condemning the gang rape

The men still have the option of appealing against their sentences.

One victim told the court: "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."

Kabul police chief Zahir Zahir said that the men "confessed to their crime within two hours of their arrest".

'Due process'

There were demonstrations outside the court, as protesters called for the men to be hanged.

Some rights activists have expressed concern at how quickly the trial was conducted.

Patricia Gossman, senior Afghan researcher at Human Rights Watch, tweeted: "Heinous crime should not mean suspending due process rights. Where is rule of law?"

It is highly unusual for a death sentence to be given for the crime of armed robbery, Jawad Samimi from the BBC's Afghan Service reports.

Paghman, where the attack took place, is known as a popular location for outings due to its beautiful orchards - but is also a place where armed gangs operate, our reporter adds.

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