Trial begins in case of Kabul lynching of Farkhunda

Unidentified suspects attend their primary court trial in Kabul, Afghanistan Image copyright EPA
Image caption Of the 49 men who appeared in court, 19 were police officers

Forty-nine men have appeared in a court in Afghanistan accused of a mob attack in March in which a woman was beaten to death.

The 28-year-old woman called Farkhunda was accused of burning the Koran, although witnesses say she did not.

Of the defendants who appeared in court in Kabul, 19 were police officers accused of failing in their duty to prevent the attack.

The death led to widespread protests against the treatment of women.

Farkhunda was beaten to death and her body then burned on 19 March.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The woman's death led to nationwide protests about the treatment of women

She had argued with a mullah, or religious teacher, about his practice of selling charms to women at a shrine. In the course of the argument she was accused of burning the Koran and a crowd overheard and attacked her.

In confession statements read in court some of the accused admitted they were drawn in by the claims. An official investigator has said there is no evidence she burned the Koran.

At the opening of the trial at Afghanistan's Primary Court, the judge called for the Kabul police chief and the head of an interior ministry investigating team to attend court on Sunday.

The accused wore dark clothes given to them in prison. Two of them said they had been forced to sign confessions under duress.

The proceedings were broadcast live on national television.

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says that although Afghanistan is a country where women's lives are often fragile, the murder of Farkhunda has led to nationwide condemnation.

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