Monday, September 15, 2014

Court Confirms 5 Death Sentences in Afghan Rape Case --- KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan appeals court confirmed death sentences on Monday against five of the seven defendants in a notorious robbery and rape case, despite their claims that their confessions were extracted through torture. -- For the other two defendants, the court found insufficient evidence to justify the death penalty, so it reduced their sentences to 20 years’ imprisonment. -- The seven men were accused of dressing in police uniforms and stopping a caravan of cars returning from a wedding in the Paghman district, less than half an hour’s drive from Kabul; robbing the occupants and raping four of the women by the roadside. -- The Kabul police department was under enormous public pressure to solve the case, which prompted national outrage and revulsion. But women’s rights activists have noted that the outrage was less an expression of concern about the women’s welfare than about the perceived dishonor to the victims’ husbands. -- That pervasive sense of male privilege — to the degree that Afghan women and girls are still commonly seen as marital property, and are frequently subject to so-called honor killings even when they are the victims of sexual attacks — has remained despite efforts to reform Afghanistan’s legal code to enshrine more protections for women. -- Almost from the beginning, questions have been raised about whether the suspects were being railroaded by the government. President Hamid Karzai promised to approve the death penalty against the men even before their hurried, two-hour-long trial on Sept. 7. -- The entire case against them rested on their confessions and on their identification by victims at a police lineup. But all seven men said that they were severely beaten by police officers until they confessed to the rapes, and that the victims were told by the police whom to identify in a lineup that included no one other than them. -- “When the lady who picked me out first came in, she put her hand on the chief of the criminal investigation division, and then on the cook,” Qaisullah, one of the five condemned men, said at the appeals court hearing Monday, referring to two police employees who would have been in plain clothes. “Then they showed me to her, and she picked me.” Like many Afghans and several of the other defendants, Mr. Qaisullah uses only one name. --- Human Rights Watch said the police identification procedure was not a lineup but a “showup,” in which the police indicated to the victims who the suspects were. -- The five men whose death sentences were confirmed on Monday did not deny being part of the gang that carried out a robbery at the scene, but they said they had nothing to do with the rapes. -- “After that beating, I would have confessed to adultery with my mother,” said Azizullah, one of the five men, describing his interrogation by police at the hearing. Another, Mohammad Nazar, said he had only acted as a lookout and that the police beat him for five days until he confessed. “I never even saw the women taken from the cars,” he said through sobs at the hearing. - Read More, ROD NORDLAND, NYTimes


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